Gabon arrests dozens after knife attack on Danish nationals

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 December, 2017, 9:46pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 December, 2017, 9:48pm

Police in Gabon arrested dozens of people on Sunday after a knife attack in the capital apparently committed in retribution for “US attacks against Muslims”, officials said.

The men detained were mostly traders and sellers in the popular market in Libreville where the attack happened on Saturday. All those arrested are from West Africa.

They were taken to police headquarters were they were due to be questioned, an official said.

“Operations are ongoing,” government spokesman Alain-Claude Bilie By Nze said. “We are not commenting at this stage.”

Two Danish nationals working for the National Geographic channel were wounded in the attack, he said.

Police said the assailant was a 53-year-old Nigerian man who, according to witnesses, shouted “Allahu akbar (God is great)” during the attack.

The man, who has lived in Gabon for 19 years, said in his first statements that he “acted in retaliation for US attacks against Muslims and America’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital”, Defence Minister Etienne Massard said on Saturday.

Residents said the man was from the Muslim Hausa/Fulani community of northern Nigeria and sold smoked meat from a cart in the city and in the market.

“We are still gathering information,” Bilie By Nze said.

The market in Libreville, popular with tourists, was shut down after the incident and was still closed on Sunday, with security forces manning the gates.

Authorities have said the attack appeared to be politically motivated, but have not publicly classified it as terrorism.

Gabon, a small French-speaking former colony with 1.8 million inhabitants, has so far been spared the Islamist-inspired attacks that have taken place in some neighbouring countries.