Bloody bodies were scattered across the ground, screams sliced through the blissful tranquility, and a once peaceful afternoon was shattered by the West Africa’s latest extremist strike.
Ivory Coast’s President Alassane Ouattara rushed to the scene: telling reporters that 14 civilians, two special forces and six assailants were killed when the gunmen stormed the beach.
“I present my condolences to the families of the people who were murdered, and of course I am very proud of our security forces who reacted so fast,” Ouattara said outside the Etoile du Sud. He praised the efficiency, noting how “the toll could’ve been much heavier” if it were not for the immediate response.
Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb willingly accepted responsibility for the attack, according to SITE Intelligence Group which monitors jihadist websites. The Islamic extremist group referred to the event in one of its latest Telegram channels, calling three of the attackers “heroes” for the assault.
The sudden gunfire sent people running from the beach at Grand-Bassam, Ivory Coast’s commercial center. This marks the third attack on a tourism center in West Africa since November.
While some witnesses claim that the gunmen fired at random, others say that they had a certain target in mind.
One assailant approached two children on the beach and Guy said he heard the man speaking Arabic. One of the children then knelt and started praying. The gunman spared his life, but the other boy was not as lucky.
“The Christian boy was shot and killed right in front of my eyes,” Guy said.
Several dozens of people were also killed in the siege of the Malian hotel in November and then in an assault on a hotel and cafe in Burkina Faso in January. Analysts who have been watching these patterns closely have been warning of a similar attack for months.
The United States strongly denounced the recent events, saying that this was an act of “senseless violence” and that they “send their prayers to the families affected by this attack.”
According to ABC News, British Prime Minister David Cameron said Sunday he was “appalled” by the attack in Grand-Bassam as well as a bombing in Turkey’s capital that also occurred Sunday.