I.Coast toll climbs to 19, govt urges 'back to business'

from Agence France-Presse
Published on 16 Mar 2016

Grand-Bassam, Ivory Coast | AFP | Wednesday 3/16/2016 - 14:40 GMT

The toll from a jihadist shooting rampage at an Ivory Coast resort rose to 19 Wednesday when a body washed up on the beach, as the president said the country would not be cowed.

Images of the body of the young man shot in the head featured on state-run RTI television, which quoted its finder as saying it had been "washed back by the waves".

Several witnesses had reported seeing the attackers firing on people bathing in the sea or swimming.

"Ivory Coast will not be intimidated," said President Alassane Ouattara on chairing an extraordinary cabinet meeting in the popular beach town of Grand-Bassam where Sunday's shooting took place, urging the nation to show "our unity and strength."

Sunday's attack by at least three gunmen was claimed by an Al-Qaeda affiliate. It was the first in the country but the third such recent incident in West Africa.

Attacks also claimed by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) took place in Mali in November, and Burkina Faso in January, likewise targeting venues frequented by foreigners.

"I'm sure business activity at the hotels will be back to normal this weekend," said Ouattara.

"We want to tell the hoteliers that we must do everything we can to get back to business."

The attack has raised concerns it could affect the country's key tourist industry, just as Ivory Coast, the world's leading cocoa producer, was rebuilding its economy after years of unrest.

Nationals from several different countries were among those killed when the gunmen stormed three hotels and sprayed the beach with bullets.

Government spokesman Bruno Kone said the dead included eight Ivorians, a Nigerian, four French citizens, a German and a Macedonian woman and a Lebanese national. Three Ivorian special forces troops were also killed.

The sleepy town of Grand-Bassam, with its pristine beaches and UNESCO-listed French colonial-era buildings, is a short drive from Abidjan, Ivory Coast's main city and commercial capital, and is packed with visitors at weekends.

Spokesman Kone said the government was pledging emergency budgetary aid for the city to the tune of 550 million CFA (840,000 euros), to be distributed between hotels, crafts people, street vendors and the town hall.

AQIM said the attack was one of a series of operations "targeting dens of espionage and conspiracies".

It warned France and its allies that nations involved in the anti-insurgent Operation Barkhane and the 2013 French-led Operation Serval in Mali would "receive a response", with their "criminal leaders" and interests targeted, according to the SITE group which monitors extremist groups.

On Tuesday, former colonial power France announced it would deploy a dozen crack GIGN special operations troops specialised in counter-terror and hostage rescue missions in neighbouring Burkina Faso.

France has some 600 troops at four military bases in Ivory Coast.


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