BAMAKO (Reuters) – A Mauritanian suspected jihadist pleaded guilty on Wednesday to shooting dead five people in an attack in the Malian capital Bamako in 2015 and planning two other attacks in the country that year that targeted Westerners and killed 37 more people.
In a court appearance in Bamako on Wednesday, Fawaz Ould Ahmed described in detail how he carried out the attack on La Terrace restaurant in March 2015.
He said he was also involved in planning a raid that killed 17 at Hotel Byblos in the town of Sevare in August and another that killed 20 people at Bamako’s Radisson Blu hotel that November.
The attacks marked a brazen new phase in jihadist operations across West Africa, in which top hotels and tourist destinations frequented by Western tourists, aid workers and diplomats were no longer considered safe.
“I regret nothing,” Ahmed told the court, adding that he had been seeking revenge for cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad printed in the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
In January 2015, two months before Ahmed’s first attack, Islamist militants in Paris had stormed the offices of Charlie Hebdo and shot dead 12 people because of the cartoons.
Ahmed described taking a taxi to La Terrasse restaurant and carrying out the shooting.
“On arrival I went to the toilets, put on a balaclava, took out my Kalashnikov and shot those unbelievers,” he said.
At the time, militant groups Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and al Mourabitoun claimed responsibility for the attacks in Mali as well as for attacks on a restaurant in neighbouring Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou and a beach resort town in Ivory Coast.
Ahmed was captured in Bamako in 2016 as he was preparing to carry out another attack armed with grenades and a suitcase filled with weapons on behalf of al Mourabitoun, according to local authorities.
If convicted of the charges including murder and complicity in murder, Ould Ahmed and the one other suspect could face the death penalty.
(Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Edward McAllister and Alexandra Hudson)
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