14 Mar 2016

Ivory Coast shooting 'act of terrorism'

11:45 am on 14 March 2016

Al Qaeda-linked militants have killed at least 16 people in a gun attack on a beach resort in southern Ivory Coast.

Ivorian security forces evacuate people after heavily armed gunmen opened fire on March 13, 2016 at a hotel in the Ivory Coast beach resort of Grand-Bassam.

Ivory Coast security forces evacuate people from the area around the Etoile du Sud Hotel in Grand Bassam. Photo: AFP

The attackers fired on beachgoers in the town of Grand Bassam, about 40km from the commercial capital Abidjan.

The resort is popular with both locals and foreigners. Four of the dead were Westerners, including a French and a German national, according to officials.

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has claimed the attack. The gunmen have been "neutralised", Interior Minister Hamed Bakayoko said.

Ivory Coast was once one of the most stable countries in West Africa.

However, a civil war broke out in 2002, pitting the mainly Muslim north against the largely Christian south. Since then, peace deals have alternated with renewed violence.

Ivory Coast's armed forces take position after heavily-armed gunmen opened fire on March 13, 2016 in the Ivory Coast resort town of Grand-Bassam, leaving bodies strewn on the beach.

Armed forces take position after the attack, which left bodies strewn on the beach. Photo: AFP

A witness to the attack told AFP that "heavily armed men wearing balaclavas" had opened fire near the L'Etoile du Sud Hotel, which was full of expats.

Fourteen of those killed were civilians and two were soldiers, officials said - describing the attack as an act of terrorism.

Mr Bakayoko said four of the civilians were Westerners, including a French and a German national. French President Francois Hollande has condemned the "cowardly attack".

The nationalities of the other victims have not been released.

BBC regional reporter Maud Jullien said Ivory Coast had been identified as one of several countries in West Africa at risk of being targeted by Islamist militants.

AQIM claimed deadly attacks on luxury hotels in Mali in November and Burkina Faso in January.

The group, which has its origin in Algeria's civil war of the 1990s, has expanded across the Sahel regions south of the Sahara in recent years.

-BBC

A file photo shows locals relaxing on the beach at Grand Bassam, Ivory Coast, in April 2015.

A file photo shows locals resting on the beach in April 2015. Photo: AFP

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