Grand-Bassam (Ivory Coast) – After Burkina Faso and Mali, the Ivory Coast has been the target of a Sunday jihadist attack, an armed commando killing 16 people in the popular seaside resort of Grand Bassam, the first attack of its kind in the country.

The President Alassane Ouattara, who visited the scene, about twenty kilometers east of Abidjan, denounced a “terrorist” attack, claimed by Al in the evening -Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

The attack is reminiscent of a hotel in Sousse (Tunisia) that killed 38 on June 26 claimed by the Islamic State group (EI). It follows several attacks in West Africa to places frequented by foreigners, in Bamako (20 dead including 14 foreigners on November 20) and Ouagadougou (20 dead January 15).

The attack began at 12:30 (local time and GMT) when “six armed men came on the beach (hotel south Star) Grand Bassam (…) and began firing on tourists, customers,” said Ouattara ”

The Ivorian special forces intervened since 1:15 p.m. (and) were able to neutralize the six terrorists,” he said.

“the toll is heavy” with 14 civilians and two members killed Special Forces and 22 injured , he added.Mop-up operations have however continued to find other possible assailants.

The interior minister, Hamed Bakayoko, said that there were four Westerners died, one French and one German.

French President Francois Hollande denounced a “cowardly attack” promising “logistical support and intelligence to find the attackers.” The head of French diplomacy Jean-Marc Ayrault and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve will visit Abidjan on Tuesday to express the solidarity of France, according to Mr. Ayrault entourage.

A French court has opened a murder investigation for terrorist, because of the presence of a French victim. the United States in turn have “strongly condemned the terrorist attacks” of Grand-Bassam, and said “be ready to support the Ivorian government in its investigation of this heinous attack, “a spokesman statement Sunday the department of State John Kirby. in its claim, AQIM said the attack was carried out by” three heroes “.

An AFP photographer saw seven bodies on the beach and another in South Star hotel, one of three targeted institutions as customers fled, abandoning towels and drinks at the pool. These attackers were “heavily armed” when the establishment was packed in this period of heat wave, said a joint witness by AFP.

– Kalashnikovs and grenades

– “we were on the beach, we heard gunshots and saw people flee, it was understood that it was an attack, “he told Braman Kinda who saw the attackers go the beach” by firing shots. ” the french Prince Charles-Philippe d’Orléans, arrived on the beach shortly before the attack, told the magazine Paris match have sounded like “firecrackers” which was “probably a .

22 LR”. “There was a huge crowd on the beach (…) Everyone froze for a moment. Then there was a second shot, 9 mm no doubt, and there’s everyone ‘ started running in all directions. ”

Abbas El-Roz, a Lebanese national who was staying at the Star of the South, said that one of the attackers wore a Kalashnikov assault rifle and a grenade belt.

Another witness Kouamena Kakou Bertin carrier, said three assailants fled on foot by the road.

The attack caused scenes of panic, hundreds of people trying to leave the area crisscrossed by major military forces. historic city and former colonial capital on the coast of the Gulf of Guinea, Grand-Bassam houses several hotels frequented by expatriates looking along a beach where the Abidjan population flows weekend.

This is the first time the country is the target of an attack against a tourist area, while the sector is slowly recovering from 10 years of socio-political crisis. The Ivory Coast border of Mali with jihadists a time occupied the north before being driven out by French military intervention, had so far been spared the mass attacks.

But many analysts expected it to be covered, such as Senegal, countries very touristic. In an interview with Al-Akhbar website Mauritania in January, a leader of AQIM, Abu Yahya El Hamam, threatening allies of the “Crusaders” of “hit and Western interests in them.” Côte d’Ivoire is participating in the UN force deployed in Mali and a little over 550 French soldiers are stationed in the country.