Trial Opens in 2004 Bombing of French Base in Ivory Coast

PARIS – A trial opened in Paris Monday over the 2004 bombing of a French military base in then war-torn Ivory Coast that killed an American soil scientist and nine French soldiers. The defendants are being tried in absentia. Nearly two decades later, the attack—and the French government’s response—raises many questions.

Two Ivorian soldiers and a mercenary from Belarus stand accused of the 2004 bombing of the French army base near Bouake—Ivory Coast’s second largest city held by rebels at a time, when the country was in the middle of a civil war. The whereabouts of the three men are unknown—one of the many mysteries surrounding this trial. 

Relations between Ivory Coast and its former colonial power France were at a low point when the bombing took place. Anti-French sentiment — especially against its Licorne peacekeeping operation there — was high.

Paris was accused of aiding rebels fighting then-president, Laurent Gbagbo. France responded to the Bouake attack by destroying Ivory Coast’s tiny air force. 

Some believe the attack was a blunder by Ivorian authorities. Former French ambassador to Ivory Coast, Jean-Marc Simon, told Radio France International he believed even former President Gbagbo had not been informed of it in advance – but suggested high-level members of Gbagbo’s government must have given the orders. 

Former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo talks to his members of his legal team at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, Feb. 6, 2020.
FILE – Former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo talks to his members of his legal team at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, Feb. 6, 2020.

Lawyer Lionel Bethune de Moro, representing some of the civil parties in the case, told Agence France-Presse news service he believes the attack was deliberate by Ivorian authorities — as a way to get France to… read next here

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