Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara is scheduled to preside over an emergency cabinet meeting on Monday to respond to a grisly attack by al-Qaeda extremists on a popular beach town that left 16 dead.
The extremists attacked civilians at one of the country’s top destinations for both locals and foreigners, but security forces apparently responded quickly.
Ivorian newspapers on Monday morning featured graphic photos of dead bodies sprawled on the beach. The headline for one paper, Le Patriote, read: “We are Grand-Bassam!”
“These terrorist attacks can happen anywhere, at any time,” Ouattara said on Sunday after visiting the Etoile du Sud hotel, one of three hotels where gunmen opened fire. “We have shown that we have the capacity to contain the damage that can result.”
The 16 dead included 14 civilians and two Ivorian special forces, Ouattara said. Six assailants were also killed and at least 22 people – 19 civilians and three special forces – were wounded, he said.
Appearing on state television Sunday night, Interior Minister Hamed Bakayoko said the 14 civilian victims came from countries including Burkina Faso, Cameroon, France, Germany and Mali.
The toll could rise, Bakayoko said.
Officials were not ready to provide information on the attackers, though authorities were in possession of mobile phones and other evidence that would allow them “to go to the source” of the attack, Bakayoko said.
He urged Ivorians to remain strong in the face of the extremist threat.
“It’s a grave event, but we must face it,” he said.
Bakayoko said security forces had responded within 30 minutes and that within two hours the assailants had been killed.
French prosecutors say it had opened an investigation into the attack, calling it murder in connection with a terrorist enterprise. Anti-terrorism investigators will handle the probe because there was a French victim.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility, according to SITE Intelligence Group which monitors jihadist websites.
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