Senegal sentenced 13 people to prison for attempting to establish a home-grown jihadist cell modelled on Boko Haram.
About 30 Senegalese were put on trial in April for suspected involvement in the cell after some spent time in Nigeria with Boko Haram, the insurgency which has been fighting for nine years to establish an Islamic caliphate based in northern Nigeria.
Senegal’s relatively stable democracy and tolerant form of Islam helped it so far escape jihadist attacks that hit Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso in recent years, despite sharing a border with Mali, where groups with links to Islamic State and al Qaeda have been active for years.
The sentences ranged from five years and up, with the man considered the ring leader in the plot, named Matar Diokhane, receiving 20 years.
The investigation started in 2015, after Diokhane paid tribute to Senegalese jihadists in a Facebook post that alerted Senegal’s intelligence services.
Around 200 people came to Senegal’s main courthouse to hear the verdict. Those in court cheered and shouted “God is greatest” when suspects were acquitted, said a Reuters witness.
“The court was heavy-handed in sentencing our client and we are going to appeal,” Diokane’s lawyer Alassane Cisse told Reuters.