Friday 23 March 2018

Six gunmen shoot 16 dead in Ivory Coast hotel rampage

Aislinn Laing Johannesburg

SIX gunmen in balaclavas stormed three hotels at a resort in Ivory Coast yesterday, killing as many as 16 people, including four Europeans.

Beachgoers were filmed screaming and running for cover as up to six gunmen jumped off boats and began spraying bullets indiscriminately while shouting: "Allahu Akbar."

Witnesses described the attackers as African, armed with Kalashnikovs and grenade belts. They shot at "anyone they could find" as they "calmly" walked along the packed beachfront of Grand Bassam, a World Heritage site 40km east of the capital Abidjan at lunchtime.

At least one is thought to have been killed in a shootout with police. At around 6.30pm local time, an army officer in Grand Bassam said two attackers were encircled by special forces.

French president Francois Hollande said last night he "strongly condemns the cowardly attack" and confirmed the death of one French national.

The attack is the third on west African establishments popular with westerners in a matter of months.

It bore similarities to one by Isil in June 2015 on the Tunisian beach resort of Sousse, which claimed 38 lives, including three Irish tourists. Last night, al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) was reported to have claimed responsibility. They were behind the two previous incidents in west Africa.

One tourist, Braman Kinda, saw four attackers who "roamed the beach firing shots".

"We were on the beach, we heard the gunshots and we saw people fleeing - we understood this was an attack," he said.

At least one assailant was killed, several witnesses reported. Another witness, Kouamena Kakou Bertin, said three others fled on foot.

A worker in one of the hotels on the beach said that he had seen at least six bodies on the sand and two male attackers armed with Kalashnikovs.

The bodies were of white Europeans, Africans and Lebanese, said Lacina Ouattara, who works at the Wharf Hotel.

"They started at the Etoile du Sud hotel and then made their way along the beach, which was packed as it was Sunday afternoon," he said.

They were "shooting at anyone they could find".

"I saw two men with guns. Kalashnikovs. Their faces were bare and I could see they were Africans. They were in their 30s and were dressed in civilian clothes," said Mr Ouattara. "They shouted 'Allahu Akhbar' as they moved along the beach."

He said the gunmen were intercepted by police as they reached La Paillote Hotel and a shootout ensued.

Irish Independent

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