Gunmen attack 3 Ivory Coast hotels, government says

Posted at 1:29 PM, Mar 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-13 15:29:20-04
By Michael Pearson and Mariano Castillo


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(CNN) — Gunmen mounted deadly attacks at three hotels in the beach resort city of Grand-Bassam, Ivory Coast, shortly after noon on Sunday, according to the government.

French President Francois Hollande, whose nation maintains a close relationship with Ivory Coast, said 12 civilians were killed, including at least one French citizen.

The Ivory Coast government had said 11 people — including a child — were victims of the attack, but did not say whether they had been injured or killed.

Security forces “neutralized” six attackers, Interior Minister Hamed Bakayoko said in a statement on state-run broadcaster RTI1.

The statement said security sweeps were continuing.

Video from the scene — about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the country’s largest city, Abidjan — appeared to show people fleeing from the hotel during the attack.

A photo posted by Twitter user @lopezdobe showed ammunition magazines and grenades on the ground near the scene.

Hollande condemned what he called a “cowardly attack” and pledged French support to find out who was responsible for the attack, which the Ivory Coast government had earlier said targeted two hotels.

The U.S. Embassy in Abidjan reported that it had no evidence that U.S. citizens were targeted or harmed.

The French Embassy said it had set up a crisis unit, and asked people to limit travel in the area and stay clear of security forces. The British Foreign Office had similar advice.

The identity of the gunmen was not immediately known, although jihadists have targeted hotels in West Africa before.

In the past year, two countries bordering Ivory Coast — Mali and Burkina Faso — have witnessed attacks on hotels popular with Westerners.

Ivory Coast itself has not been the target of terror attacks, but the threat of such an incident has risen since the country’s support of France’s 2013 military intervention targeting Islamic extremists in Mali, the U.S. State Department has said.

A terror group in Mali named Ivory Coast as a potential target for attacks in 2015, the State Department said.