By Ariana Braccia,
International News Writer
On Sunday, Mar. 13, 22 people died on Grand-Bassam’s beaches in the Ivory Coast after al-Qaeda opened fired on tourists and locals who were staying in the area.
Armed with Kalashnikov rifles and hand grenades, six figures in black marched across the beach and shot men, women and children. The gunmen went on to kill two members of the security forces before they were overwhelmed and killed.
According to CBS, security forces responded within 30 minutes of the attack and killed the assailants two hours after the first shots had been fired. A total of 22 people died, while 19 civilians and three members of the Ivory Coast Special Forces were wounded.
According to the BBC, the gunmen showed little mercy or discernment of their targets, even killing a child that was reportedly kneeling down and begging.
President Alassane Ouattara expressed his condolences and praised the country’s security forces during his visit to the city, according to the Washington Post.
The BBC reported that a witness to the attacks told AFP news agency that the armed men had opened fire near the L’Etolie du Sud hotel. Another witness stated that guns, grenades and ammunition clips were found lying around one of the hotels.
Four Westerners, including a French and German national were among those killed according to the BBC. The U.S. Embassy in Abidjan later stated that it had no evidence that U.S. citizens were targeted or harmed.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) was quick to claim responsibility for the attack. It has published its claim in four languages
The attack on Grand-Bassam was the first of its kind in Ivory Coast; however, attacks have been considered a possibility since similar attacks occurred in West Africa last November.
CBS reports that analysts had warned for months that Ivory Coast could also be hit by jihadists.
AQIM has been almost dormant in the past few years but has recently increased its activities after announcing in December that it had partnered with the more active militant group al-Murabitoun which is known for high-profile hostage taking.
This allowed Al-Qaeda to claim credit for al-Murabitoun’s hotel attacks in Malian in November and in Burkina Faso in January.
Reuters reported that the gunmen from al Qaeda’s North African branch drank beer at a beachside bar before launching their attacks on the resorts.
According to BBC, local tourism industries fear that the attack on Sunday will cause a huge blow to the economy. The extremists attacked civilians at one of the country’s top destinations for both locals and foreigners.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, March 22nd print edition.
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