16 Dead in Ivory Coast Beach Massacre

16 Dead in Ivory Coast Beach Massacre

Gunmen from Al-Qaeda’s North African branch killed 16 people, including four Europeans, at a beach resort town in Ivory Coast on Sunday, the latest in a string of deadly attacks that have confirmed the group’s growing reach in West Africa.
Six shooters targeted hotels on a beach at Grand Bassam, a weekend retreat popular with westerners about 40 kilometers east of the commercial capital Abidjan, before being killed in clashes with Ivorian security forces, the government said, Reuters reported.
“Six attackers came onto the beach in Bassam this afternoon,” Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara said during a visit to the site. “We have 14 civilians and two special forces soldiers who were unfortunately killed.”
A French man was killed in the attack, according to a French Foreign Ministry spokesman. The nationalities of the other dead were not yet known, but four were European, one officer said during a briefing attended by a Reuters reporter.
Witnesses said the gunmen followed a pathway onto the beach where they opened fire on swimmers and sunbathers before turning their attention to the packed seafront hotels where people were eating and drinking at lunchtime.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which has carried out other recent attacks in the region, claimed responsibility for Sunday’s shootings, according to the US-based SITE intelligence monitoring group, citing an AQIM statement.
It said the attack had been carried out by three militants.
Sunday’s attack bore grim similarities to the gun and grenade assault on a Tunisian beach resort last June, which left 37 foreign holidaymakers dead.
Barely two months ago, gunmen killed dozens of people in a hotel and cafe frequented by foreigners in neighboring Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou. Militants also attacked a hotel in the Malian capital, Bamako, late last year.
Both of those attacks were also claimed by AQIM and raised concern that militants were extending their reach far beyond their traditional zones of operation in the Sahara and the arid Sahel region.
Though previously untouched by violence, Ivory Coast, French-speaking West Africa’s largest economy and the world’s top cocoa producer, has long been considered a target for militants.

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