Grand-Bassam’s beaches were busy Sunday afternoon. Soaring temperatures had driven people from across Ivory Coast to the city’s oceanfront resorts. Tourists and locals alike dove in the sea and lounged on the sand.
For al-Qaeda, it was an opportune moment to attack.
Six figures in black appeared on the beach. They wore balaclavas. They carried guns. They opened fire.
Armed with Kalashnikov rifles and hand grenades, the attackers marched across the sand, sowing death. They shot men, women and children. They shot Ivorians and foreigners. When security forces arrived, the gunmen killed two of them as well.
“They killed a child, despite him kneeling down and begging,” one witness said, according to the BBC. “They shot a woman in the chest. I swear, I heard them shouting ‘Allahu Akbar.’ They’ve killed innocent people.”
The killing came to a halt only when security forces fatally shot the six assailants.
The final tally: 22 dead, including the six gunmen, two soldiers and 14 civilians.
Among the dead civilians were four Westerners, including a French and a German national, according to the BBC. The U.S. Embassy in Abidjan said it had no evidence that U.S. citizens were targeted or harmed, according tothe Associated Press.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for the attack, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors radical Islamist websites.
Grand-Bassam is a historic city that was the country’s first capital. It lies about 25 miles east of the present-day capital of Abidjan.
President Alassane Ouattara visited the shell-shocked city Sunday evening to express his condolences and to praise the country’s security forces.
“These cowardly terrorist attacks will not be tolerated in the Ivory Coast,” he said, according to the BBC. “We have taken important measures. These attacks were brought under control in three or four hours thanks to our security and defense forces.”
The bloodshed followed several similar attacks in neighboring countries in recent months.
In November, a siege on a hotel in the Malian capital of Bamako killed 27 hostages, including one American. Another al-Qaeda affiliate, al-Mourabitoun, claimed responsibility.
Those attacks led some security analysts to warn that Ivory Coast would be next, the AP reported.
The trio of attacks in West Africa has triggered fears that radical Islamist terror groups are extending their reach to previously untouched corners of the continent. All three incidents resembled an attack on a Tunisian beach in North Africa in June that killed 38 people and was claimed by the Islamic State.
See more- Source: Washigton Post