BY Fredrick Ngugi, 11:00am March 13, 2017,

Ivory Coast Marks 1st Anniversary of Grand Bassam Attack

On Monday, Ivory Coast is marking the first anniversary of the Grand Bassam attack on March 13, 2015, when at least 19 people died.

Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara is expected to lead the country in commemorating the heinous attack on beach-goers by al-Qaeda militants, reports Africa News.

Armed with grenades and assault rifles, three Islamic militants stormed Grand Bassam, a small coastal town located 40 kilometers east of the country’s commercial Abidjan, and started spraying innocent civilians with bullets.

The town, which hosts a number of beach resorts, bars and hotels, is popular with Western tourists who were suspected to be the main targets of the militant group.

Four of the dead were Westerners from France and Germany.

Revenge Attack

The attack was carried out by the al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) group, which was quick to claim responsibility, stating that the attack was a revenge attack for the French offensive against its militants in the Sahel region.

As Face2Face Africa reported:

While authorities were eventually able to “neutralize” the terrorists, with Ivoirian special forces killing all six of the attackers, the causalities, which so far include four French and German nationals, provide somber confirmation that Islamic militants have infiltrated the previously stable country.

The Islamic militant group has recently started to intensify its presence in the Sahel region.

In December 2015, the group announced that it had partnered with the more active terror group al-Murabitoun, which is popular for deadly attacks and high-profile hostage-taking.

Al-Murabitoun is responsible for major terror attacks in the region, including the hotel attacks in Mali in November 2015 and Burkina Faso in 2016.

Ivory Coast has largely been a stable country, but since the deadly civil war in 2002 between the Muslim North and the Christian South, the country has endured numerous spates of violence, with peace deals alternating with renewed fighting.

French Intervention

Since 2013, French troops have assisted in the fight against AQIM in Mali, Burkina Faso, and other countries in the Sahel region.

The mission, dubbed “Operation Serval,” has helped Mali reclaim territories seized by Islamist and separatist rebels between 2013 and 2014.

Analysts say that Operation Serval and its successor mission, Operation Barkhane, have been generally successful in overcoming substantial obstacles of distance, climate, and infrastructure and achieving impressive victories against armed groups across the Sahel region.

However, some critics have faulted Operation Barkhane, saying that it could be doing more harm than good. They argue that the French government may be offering important support to repressive governments that are largely to blame for the current problems facing the Sahel region.

These critics further contend that a lighter French footprint aimed at building local peace would be less costly and more effective in bringing real peace and stability in the region than the current operation.

Last Edited by:Abena Agyeman-Fisher Updated: March 13, 2017

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