al Qaeda affiliate claims responsibility for Ivory Coast attack
The United States and France have pledged assistance to Ivory Coast as the West African nation investigates a terror attack that left at least 18 people dead. Gunmen stormed three hotels Sunday in the beach resort city of Grand-Bassam, officials said. Foreign nationals, including four French citizens and a German woman, were among the dead. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility on a social media account tied to the group. Three soldiers and 15 civilians were among those killed, President Alassane Ouattara said as he visited the sites of the attack. Three terrorists also were killed in the attack, the Ivory Coast presidency said on its Facebook page Monday, citing the Interior Minister Hamed Bakayoko. On Sunday, Ouattara had given the number of terrorists killed in the attack as six. No information was immediately available Monday clarifying the discrepancy.
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, al Qaeda's North African offshoot known as AQIM, has its roots in Algeria. The group has been stepping up attacks after a downturn in activities.
Ryan Cummings, director at Signal Risk, an Africa-focused risk management company, said the recent attacks were evidence of a resurgence. "They've executed attacks on hotels before, but none at the level of sophistication or as spectacular as have been in recent months," he said. He said the chosen targets reflected the group's pronounced "anti-French" focus.
"They're almost ticking off major hotels within Francophone West Africa, specifically hotels that are quite popular with French citizens," he said. Targeting French interests had been a priority for the group since France launched, at Mali's request, Operation Serval, a U.N.-sanctioned ground and air operation against jihadists in 2013. It was succeeded in August 2014 by Operation Barkhane, a broader French anti-terror mission targeting Islamists in the Sahel, with a 3,000-strong force headquartered in Chad. While Serval was successful against Islamist militants in Mali, subsequent operations have been less effective, allowing militants across the region to reconsolidate, he said.
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