Militants linked to al-Qaeda said they led an attack on Sunday that left at least 22 people dead in Ivory Coast, the third assault on a West African city since November.
Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb and al-Mourabitoune said three of its fighters died in the attack in Grand Bassam, according to Mauritanian newspaper al-Akhbar, which receives statements from the Islamist militants.
Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara said on state television that 14 civilians, two security personnel and six attackers were killed.
“The situation is under control,” Ouattara said. “We are continuing to reinforce security in Grand Bassam, in Abidjan, and in the whole Ivorian territory.”
Ivory Coast, the world’s biggest producer of cocoa, has been on high alert since November, when al-Qaeda-linked insurgents stormed into a luxury hotel in Mali and seized hostages. That assault left 22 people dead. The militants pledged to continue targeting French interests and carried out a similar raid in neighboring Burkina Faso in January that left 30 dead, many of them foreigners.
Sunday’s attack is the first by Islamist militants in Ivory Coast, the biggest economy in French-speaking Africa and a country with one of the largest populations of French citizens in the region.
“This is one of the furthest reaches of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb that we’ve seen,” Cailin Birch, a political analyst at the Economist Intelligence Group, said by phone. “For the moment the violence has really focused on French-speaking countries with a proximity to Mali, which allows for an easier cross-border flow of small groups of fighters.”
Islamist fighters have established bases in northern Mali since a coup left a temporary power vacuum in 2012. When they threatened to overrun the capital, Bamako, French President Francois Hollande sent thousands of soldiers to push back the insurgents, who benefited from weapons looted from Libyan stockpiles after the ouster of Moammar Qaddafi the previous year.
Ivory Coast’s economy has rebounded under Ouattara after almost a decade of conflict in the 2000s and a disputed election in 2010 that left thousands dead and forced the country to default on its foreign debt. Ouattara has pledged to boost economic growth to about 10 percent per year through 2020. Yields on the nation’s $750 million of securities rose 12 basis points to 7.22% on Monday.
L’Etoile du Sud hotel, the Wharf Hotel and Hotel La Taverne were the targets in the Ivory Coast raid. Grand Bassam is about 30 kilometers (19 miles) east of Abidjan, the country’s commercial capital. The seaside town is a former colonial capital and popular as a weekend getaway, with more than a dozen restaurants and hotels overlooking the beach. At least 35 people were taken to hospitals in Abidjan to be treated for injuries, Jacques Cissoko, general director of the national emergency services, said by phone.
One Lebanese citizen was killed and five were were injured, Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency reported.
The U.S. State Department said there were no reports of Americans among the casualties. One French citizen was killed, the government said.
A press aide for former French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that Carla Bruni, his wife, had been in Ivory Coast and returned before the attacks.