Terrorism & Insurgency

Mass trial of alleged jihadists indicates high attack risk for Western targets in Senegal from returning fighters

16 May 2018
Senegalese soldiers parade during the closing ceremony of the Operation Flintlock anti-terrorist exercises in Saint-Louis in February 2016. Source: Seyllou/AFP/Getty Images

Key Points

  • Suspected jihadists were allegedly planning to attack French targets in Senegal and to spread Islamist influence into neighbouring countries.
  • Senegal remains a likely top target for Al-Qaeda-linked groups due to its strong connections with France, emphasised by a renewed threat from Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in early May.
  • The most likely perpetrators would be Mali-based coalition Jamaat Nasrat al-Islam wal Muslimin, using some experienced Senegalese militants to target the capital, Dakar, or tourist sites to the south.


The state prosecutor in the trial of a Salafist imam and 28 other suspected jihadists at the court in Dakar, Senegal’s capital, has demanded that exemplary sentences be passed, while delivering the indictment on 14 May.

The prosecutor requested that imam Alioune Ndao, based in the town of Kaolack 200 kilometres southeast of Dakar and accused of being the cell’s spiritual guide and co-ordinator, be sentenced to 30 years in prison with hard labour. He also requested that defendant Makhtar Diokhané, accused of being the group’s “ideologue”, receive life in prison with hard labour, along with 10 others. Sentences of between five and 20 years were requested for other defendants, while eight were recommended for acquittal. Verdicts are due to be delivered by mid-June.

The group is accused of multiple offences, including planning terrorist acts, financing and promoting terrorism, money laundering, and possession of weapons. Particular details were revealed in the trial of how they aimed to set up a base in Senegal’s southern province of Casamance, where the Casamance Movement of Democratic Forces (Mouvement des Forces Démocratiques de Casamance: MFDC) has conducted an unrelated low-level insurgency for nearly 30 years.

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