Al-Qaeda claims responsibility for Ivory Coast attack
At least 16 people killed after 'calm' gunmen open fire in popular Grand Bassam beach resort
Gunmen who attacked a popular Ivory Coast beach resort on Sunday were working on behalf of Al-Qaeda, a faction of the terror group has claimed.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) said it was responsible for the carnage at Grand Bassam, on the south-east coast. At least 16 people were killed, including four Westerners and two soldiers, authorities say.
Witnesses described how gunmen wearing balaclavas shouted "Allahu akbar" as they "calmly" walked along the waterfront on Sunday lunchtime, firing on beachgoers with AK-47 rifles.
Yves Losseau, a Belgian national who was on the beach, told Belgian national radio how he and others attempted to take refuge in a hotel. "I saw one of the attackers approach the hotel garden and I saw him shoot dead a European woman," he said. "After the attacker shot the woman, he walked away calmly."
Ivorian authorities say security forces have "neutralised" six armed men in connection with the attack. A final death tally has not been confirmed and the UK Foreign Office is working to establish if any British nationals were among the victims.
For more than 30 years under president Felix Houphouet-Boigny, Ivory Coast was seen as a model example of a prosperous and stable African nation. Since his death in 1993, political and religious tensions have risen between the majority Christian south and Muslim rebels in the north, culminating in a five-year civil war in 2002 and another conflict in 2010.
This weekend's attack suggests attempts to keep domestic Islamic militants pinned in the north may have failed. "They were sub-Saharan Africans," a local trader told The Guardian. "Even though they wore balaclavas, everyone saw they had brown hands."
AQIM, which originated in Algeria but has since spread into sub-Saharan Africa, has previously claimed responsibility for the November 2015 attacks on hotels in neighbouring Mali and this January's killings in Burkina Faso.