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Two Ivorian soldiers in court over beach attack

05 August 2016, 12:31

Abidjan - Two Ivorian soldiers have appeared in a military court accused of having associated with the perpetrators of a March attack on a beach resort that left 19 people dead.

Sergeants Zanga Zoumana Coulibaly and Brice Toure are being prosecuted for disobeying orders and associating with criminals.

The charges relate to the pair's alleged meeting with Assane Barry, also known as Sam, one of the main suspects in the Islamist attack on the resort town of Grande Bassam.

Barry, a driver by profession, is awaiting trial in a civilian court on charges of terrorism and association with criminals.

"I did nothing wrong. I did not collaborate with any terrorists," Coulibaly said in court.

"I am innocent. I have nothing to do with this business, which is beyond me," said Toure.

When he announced the pair's arrest on July 13, military prosecutor Ange Kessi said they had lived with some of the attackers and had had conversations with Barry.

"It was a serious mistake, an error, a military offence not have to denounced the presence of the driver and this group to their superiors so that we could have prevented the attack," he said, stressing the two soldiers were not suspected of complicity.

On March 13, three assailants armed with grenades and assault rifles stormed three hotels in Grand Bassam, a resort popular with expats that lies 40km from Abidjan.

The attack, the first of its kind in the Ivory Coast, was claimed by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb which has also carried out similar assaults on tourist hotspots in Mali and Burkina Faso.

The jihadists claimed the attack on the former French colonial capital was in retaliation for military operations in the Sahel region led by France and its allies.

In late June, Burkina Faso's interior ministry said around 10 people had been arrested in connection with the Grand Bassam attack and another attack in Ouagadougou that killed 30 people in January.

Three of those detained are thought to have been involved in both attacks.



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