16 dead in Grand Bassam beach resort attack

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Militants have killed at least 16 people in a gun attack on a beach resort in southern Ivory Coast.

The attackers fired on beach-goers in Grand Bassam, about 40km (25 miles) from the commercial capital Abidjan.

The resort is popular with both locals and foreigners. Four of the dead were Westerners, including a French and a German national, officials say.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) said it launched the attack. The gunmen have been “neutralised”, officials say.

Ivory Coast was once one of the most stable countries in West Africa.

However, a civil war broke out in 2002, pitting the mainly Muslim north against the largely Christian south. Since then, peace deals have alternated with renewed violence.

A witness to Sunday’s attack told AFP news agency that “heavily armed men wearing balaclavas” had opened fire near the L’Etoile du Sud hotel, which was full of expats.

One of the people on the beach, Belgian Charline Burton, told the BBC she grabbed her daughter and ran to hide in a toilet.

“We could hear them shooting so we could hear that they were going right next to where we were. It was a miracle the baby didn’t cry,” she said.

Fourteen of those killed were civilians and two were soldiers, officials say. Interior Minister Hamed Bakayoko said four of the civilians were Westerners, and included a French and a German national.

There is no word on the nationalities of the other victims.

Ivory Coast’s National Security Council is holding an emergency meeting to discuss the attack.

President Alassane Ouattara visited the site a few hours after the attack and promised that security in the country will be strengthened.

“These cowardly attacks by terrorists will not be tolerated,” he added.

French President Francois Hollande also condemned the attack.

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