Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In West Africa, a Rising Middle Class Takes Brunt of Luxury Hotel Attacks

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In West Africa, a Rising Middle Class Takes Brunt of Luxury Hotel Attacks

Article excerpt

For Joseph Ngoh, the palm tree-lined beach resorts of Grand Bassam, with their glossy blue pools and white sand beaches, were always a place of calm, worlds away from his home in Ivory Coast's frenetic capital of Abidjan, 30 miles away. He visited at least once a month, at times simply to sit by the water and decompress from the stresses of city life.

But that image of tranquility was shattered Sunday when gunmen stormed three resorts in the seaside town, killing 18 people. The north African affiliate of Al Qaeda - Al Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb - claimed responsibility for the massacre.

"I come to Bassam always to relax, but after the recent attacks I'm going to wait a bit before going back," says Mr. Ngoh, who works as an IT manager. "I would love to go back to Bassam next week, but I'm not sure I will feel safe then. You know these jihadists have tried to change how we live - I don't want to live in fear, but I also have to be smart and protect myself from danger."

Recent attacks on West Africa's luxury hotels reveal many things about the landscape of Islamist terrorism - from the global creep of Al Qaeda-branded extremism to its ability to rattle even the most stable countries in the regional neighborhoods of sub-Saharan Africa, where borders are often porous and security unsteady.

The repeated decision to strike luxury hotels is, in part, based on the calculation that resorts are expatriate hubs, and expatriate deaths garner international attention. But the attacks struck at something deeper: the majority of those who frequented the resorts of Grand Bassam were members of a newly flourishing Ivorian middle class - its entrepreneurs, school teachers, and aid workers. It was their prosperity, as much as that of their Western counterparts, that was under siege last weekend.

Tunisia, Egypt, and Turkey have all seen brutal attacks on resorts in the past year. But these attacks have special significance in sub-Saharan Africa, where luxury hotels seem to leapfrog over massive development challenges, grafting a new vision onto places that often struggle to provide their citizens with even basic services. …

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