Fourteen civilians and two soldiers were killed on Sunday when gunmen attacked the Ivory Coast resort town of Grand-Bassam, President Alassane Ouattara said.
“The toll is heavy. The terrorists succeeded in killing 14 civilians and we have lost two members of the special forces,” said the president, who travelled to the scene of the attack.
Six gunmen who carried out the attack were also killed, he said.
The six armed men attacked beach goers outside three hotels in Grand-Bassam, sending tourists fleeing through the historic Ivory Coast resort town. Bloody bodies were sprawled on the beach in photos apparently taken at the scene and posted on social media.
The bursts of gunfire sent people running from the beach at Grand-Bassam, a UNESCO World Heritage site and popular destination for Ivorians and foreigners about 40 kilometers (25 miles) east of Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s commercial centre. It was the third major attack on a tourism center in a West African country since November.
An American embassy delegation was in Grand-Bassam on Sunday, but the US Embassy in Abidjan said it is monitoring the situation and has no evidence U.S. citizens were targeted, nor confirmed reports that any were harmed.
Dozens of people were killed in the earlier attacks on West African tourist sites, starting with a siege at a Malian hotel in November and then an assault on a hotel and cafe in Burkina Faso in January.
Analysts have warned for months that Ivory Coast, which shares a border with both of those affected countries, could be hit by jihadists as well. The West African attacks indicate that extremist attacks are spreading from North Africa, where a beach attack in June killed 38 people in Tunisia.