On Sunday, six armed militants killed fourteen civilians and two soldiers in an attack on Grand Bassam, an Ivory Coast beach resort popular among Westerners and located only 25 miles from the capital, Abidjan.
According to a witness, the attackers were “heavily armed and wearing balaclavas” and “fired at guests at L’Etoile du Sud, a large hotel which was full of expats in the current heatwave.” Photos posted by other witnesses on Twitter showed the assailants toting machine guns and a significant number of grenades.
While some observers said the gunmen fired at random, others said the carnage was more targeted. Witness Marcel Guy said he saw the attackers running across the beach in small groups, carrying Kalashnikov rifles and searching for victims.
The six militants, who have yet to be identified, were killed by security forces, who took 30 to 45 minutes to make their way to the scene, according to one witness. A few hours after the shooting, President Alassane Ouattara arrived in Grand Bassam.
“I present my condolences to the families of the people who were murdered, and of course I am very proud of our security forces who reacted so fast,” he said outside L’Etoile du Sud. “The toll could’ve been much heavier.”
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has claimed responsibility for the assault, which is the third major attack on a West African tourist spot in the past five months. In November, gunmen affiliated with Al-Mourabitoun, a group with ties to Al-Qaeda, stormed a five-star hotel in Mali’s capital and killed 27 people. Two months later, 23 people were killed by assailants who held a popular hotel in Burkina Faso’s capital under siege until security forces stormed and retook the hotel.
In claiming responsibility for the attack, AQIM posted an image of a statement written in Arabic, English, French, and Spanish to its Twitter account, mimicking the media strategy used by the Islamic State.