This post has been updated.
Following an attack by gunmen on Grand Bassam, a coastal city in Côte d’Ivoire, the government has revealed that a total of 18 people, 15 civilians and three special forces members, were killed. Another 33 sustained varying degrees of injuries. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has claimed responsibility for the attacks which targeted at least three hotels in the Grand Bassam beach resort area.
Of the civilian casualties, at least four were Europeans while the rest are believed to be locals. Witnesses said the gunmen arrived on foot, wearing hooded masks.
One witness said he saw one of the attackers approach two boys on the beach. One boy who knelt and started to pray was spared while the other was shot. ”The Christian boy was shot and killed right in front of my eyes,” the witness, Marcel Guy, told the Associated Press.
The Grand Bassam area, a UNESCO world heritage site just 25 miles away from Abidjan, the commercial capital, is popular with expatriates and locals.
The possibility of an attack was flagged in January as France warned of the increasing vulnerability of West African cities following similar attacks in Burkina Faso and Mali in the last six months. In January, gunmen attacked Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, killing 28 and injuring 55 people.Last November, an attack by gunmen on the Radisson Hotel in Bamako left 21 dead after a lengthy ordeal in which around 170 were held hostage. The attacks are raising suggestions that militants of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb may be exploiting a power vacuum in West African nations.
Ivory Coast has enjoyed consistent economic growth in recent years and recently toppled Nigeria as Africa’s top investor prospect in Nielsen’s Africa Prospects Indicators report. Following the attacks, the momentum from that surge due to its “fertile investment environment” may now be lost.