Federal prosecutors in the U.S. announced murder charges Thursday against a Malian man accused of playing a central role in two 2016 terror attacks in West Africa, including an al-Qaeda shooting in Burkina Faso that killed an American missionary and 29 other people.
Mimi Baba scouted attack locations for al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and arranged the transport of assault rifles and hand grenades used in the attack on a hotel and cafe in Burkina Faso’s capital of Ouagadougou, authorities alleged in a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn.
The shooting killed 45-year-old Michael J. Riddering, an American missionary who had been eating dinner with a local pastor at Cafe Cappuccino when the attackers opened fire with AK-47s.
The attack lasted for nearly 12 hours and killed people from 18 different countries, including the wife and young daughter of the Italian cafe owner, two French citizens, two Swiss citizens and six Canadians.
All three gunmen were killed.
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Baba, 32, was captured in 2017 in Mali, where he remains in custody and is being prosecuted. Mali has no extradition treaty with the United States.
“We will continue to pursue justice for Mr. Riddering and for all American victims of terrorism,” John Demers, the assistant attorney general for national security, said in a news release. “Our memories are long and our commitment to justice is unending.”
Riddering managed a yacht outfitting company in Florida before he and his wife, a graphic designer, sold their possessions in 2011 to move to Burkina Faso, where they ran an orphanage, school, clinic and women’s center housing dozens of children and widows. He was buried in Burkina Faso.
Several weeks after the Burkina Faso shooting, prosecutors said, Baba also helped plan a similar al-Qaeda attack on Westerners in Ivory Coast. In that attack, three men armed with hand grenades and AK-47s walked along a beach in Grand Bassam opening fire.
Nineteen people were killed.
The criminal complaint says U.S authorities interviewed Baba in 2017. The document says Baba “did not consider himself a jihadist but was willing to assist al-Qaeda for monetary reasons.”
The FBI’s New York office handles so-called “extraterritorial” investigations in Africa. The Brooklyn-based Eastern District of New York previously prosecuted a Malian national for conspiring to kill a Department of Defense attache during a 2000 carjacking in Niger.
(C) 2020 The Canadian Press