The Latest: Al-Qaida-linked group claims Ivory Coast attack

FILE-In this file photo taken on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015, a man, passes a home stead, with an Ivory Coast national flag, center, seen at a fishing village renowned as a tourist hot spot visited by French and other tourist yearly in Grand Bassam, Ivory Coast. Assailants opened fire on beachgoers Sunday in Grand-Bassam, a historic resort town in Ivory Coast sending tourists fleeing through hotels. Photos posted to social media apparently taken at the scene showed bodies sprawled on the beach. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam, File)

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) — The Latest on the beach attack in Ivory Coast (all times local):

7:23 p.m.

A group that monitors jihadist websites says that al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb has claimed responsibility for the attack that killed at least 14 civilians and two security forces in Ivory Coast’s Grand-Bassam beach resort town.

SITE Intelligence Group said the Islamic extremist group made the declaration in a post to its Telegram channels, calling three of the attackers “heroes” for the assault on the Grand Bassam beach resort.

7:07 p.m.

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara confirms that two special forces were killed in the attacks, in addition to the 14 civilians and six assailants.

6:58 p.m.

Ivory Coast’s President Alassane Ouattara says that 14 civilians and six assailants have been killed when the armed men attacked beachgoers and three hotels in Grand-Bassam.

Ouattara is in the town and says he is visiting the different hotels to express condolences and salute security forces for their quick responses.

 

6:45 p.m.

A hotel owner says at least one person was killed at his hotel, and a reporter saw four dead bodies on a beach in Ivory Coast’s historic southeastern town of Grand-Bassam.

The four bodies were sprawled out on the beach next to the popular hotel Etoile du Sud after gunmen attacked beachgoers outside three hotels Sunday in Grand-Bassam. Security forces and members of the Ivorian Red Cross were clearing the bodies.

Jacques Able, who identified himself as the owner of Etoile du Sud said one person had been killed at the hotel.

Marcel Guy said he saw at least four gunmen with Kalashnikov rifles on the beach. He said one approached two children, and spoke in Arabic. One child knelt and prayed, the other was shot dead.

The government said security forces had “neutralized” at least six attackers.

President Alassane Ouattara expected to arrive at the scene.

6 p.m.

Ivory Coast’s government says that security forces have neutralized six armed men who staged attacks on three hotels in the historic town of Grand-Bassam.

State Minister Hamed Bakayoko said in a statement posted to the government Twitter that security sweeps are underway and a toll of people killed and injured will be announced in the coming hours. He said he urges the public to remain calm.

4:44 p.m.

Witnesses say bursts of gunfire have been heard in a southeastern Ivory Coast beach town about 40 kilometers (25 miles) east of Ivory Coast’s economic center, Abidjan.

Josiane Sekongo, 25, said shots rang out Sunday afternoon in Grand-Bassam, a popular weekend destination for Ivorians and foreigners.

Sekongo, who lives across from one of the town’s many beachfront hotels, said she ran outside when she heard the gunfire and saw people running away from the beach. She said residents were hiding in their homes as security forces responded.

It was unclear how many assailants were involved. Casualty information was not immediately available.

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ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) — At least six armed men attacked beachgoers outside three hotels Sunday in Grand-Bassam, sending tourists fleeing through the historic Ivory Coast resort town. Bloody bodies were sprawled on the beach in photos apparently taken at the scene and posted on social media.

Ivory Coast’s government said security forces have “neutralized” the six attackers on three hotels, and said that security sweeps are being carried out.

Officials did not say immediately how many were killed or injured.

“A detailed toll will be communicated in the coming hours,” State Minister Hamed Bakayoko said in the statement. “We urge the public to remain calm.”

The bursts of gunfire sent people running from the beach at Grand-Bassam, a UNESCO World Heritage site and popular destination for Ivorians and foreigners about 40 kilometers (25 miles) east of Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s commercial center. It was the third major attack on a tourism center in a West African country since November.

“We don’t know where they came from, and we don’t know where they’ve gone,” said a receptionist at the Etoile de Sud hotel in Grand-Bassam. Everyone in the hotel was safe, and gendarmerie were present, he said. He would not give his name.

Beachgoers could be seen lining up with their hands above their heads as they filed out of the area. Residents who heard the gunfire hid in their homes, said Josiane Sekongo, 25, who lives across from one of the many beachfront hotels.

An American embassy delegation was in Grand-Bassam on Sunday, but the U.S. Embassy in Abidjan said it is monitoring the situation and has no evidence U.S. citizens were targeted, nor confirmed reports that any were harmed.

Dozens of people were killed in the earlier attacks on West African tourist sites, starting with a siege at a Malian hotel in November and then an assault on a hotel and cafe in Burkina Faso in January. Analysts have warned for months that Ivory Coast, which shares a border with both of those affected countries, could be hit by jihadists as well. The West African attacks indicate that extremist attacks are spreading from North Africa, where a beach attack in June killed 38 people in Tunisia.

“I have always said that Abidjan (Ivory Coast) and Dakar (Senegal) are the next targets for jihadist groups because these two countries represent windows of France in Africa,” said Lemine Ould M. Salem, an expert on al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and author of a book “The Bin Laden of the Sahara.”

He said the attackers could be from Moktar Belmoktar’s al-Mourabitoun, but that Boko Haram should not be ruled out. The Nigeria-based Boko Haram pledged to the Islamic State last year

AP writers Baba Ahmed in Bamako, Mali, and Carley Petesch in Dakar, Senegal, contributed to this report.

This story was corrected to show that the attack happened near Abidjan, not near Ivory Coast’s capital.

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