Ivory Coast toll rises to 19 with body found on beach

2016-03-16 22:01

Grand-Bassam, Ivory Coast, March 16, 2016 (AFP) -The toll from a deadly attack in Ivory Coast by an Al-Qaeda affiliate rose to 19 on Wednesday, with the body of a young man shot in the head found on the beach.

State-run RTI television showed images of the body and quoted the person who had found it as saying it had been "washed back by the waves".

Citizens from Burkina Faso, Germany and France were among those killed when gunmen stormed three hotels and sprayed a beach with bullets at the Grand-Bassam beach resort, an unprecedented jihadist assault in Ivory Coast.

The sleepy town, with its pristine beaches and UNESCO-listed French colonial-era buildings, is packed with visitors on weekends from nearby Abidjan, Ivory Coast's main city and commercial capital.

A security source said it was possible that some corpses had been washed away from the beach following the assault.

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

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb (AQIM) said the shooting rampage was one of a series of operations "targeting dens of espionage and conspiracies".

It directly threatened France and its allies in the region in warning 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.

Ivory Coast, the world's leading cocoa producer, was France's star colony in Africa.

On Tuesday the visiting French foreign and interior ministers pledged to step up anti-terrorism cooperation in the region and deploy crack GIGN special operations troops specialising in counter-terrorism and hostage rescue missions.

France has a permanent military base in Ivory Coast under a deal with the country's founding president Felix Houphouet-Boigny.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said about 10 GIGN troops would be stationed in the capital of neighbouring Burkina Faso and could even intervene if needed.

Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara meanwhile held a cabinet meeting in Grand-Bassam on Wednesday to show "our unity and our strength," adding: "Ivory Coast will not be intimidated."

He said he hoped the town's numerous hoteliers would resume business soon, adding: "We will do everything possible so that normal life resumes."

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