Eleven people have been sentenced to life in prison in Ivory Coast on Wednesday after being convicted of carrying out an Islamic extremist attack that killed 19 people and injured dozens more on a tourist beach nearly seven years ago.
The killings in the Grand-Bassam resort area were perpetrated by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and were the nation's first extremist attack of its kind and one of the bloodiest in the region.
The long-awaited verdict was read by Judge Charles Bini in a packed, somber courtroom in the capital Abidjan where 18 defendants have been on trial since November.
Only four of the accused were physically present, each of whom was sentenced to life in prison. Seven of the accused were found innocent, said Bini. The families of the victims were awarded varying compensation of up to $81,000.
Grand-Bassam is linked by highway to Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s largest city, and is a popular weekend destination. When gunfire broke out on the beach that Sunday afternoon in March 2016, many holidaymakers initially thought they were hearing fireworks. But when the armed jihadis approached, terrified tourists and workers tried to seek refuge in nearby hotels. Some beachgoers who were in the ocean at the time of the attack swam out beyond the waves to safety.
The victims that day included 11 Ivorians, four French, one German, one Lebanese, one Macedonian and one Nigerian.
Survivors of the attack were satisfied with the verdict but said they wouldn't get closure until everyone was caught.
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