Gunmen Target Beach Popular With Tourists In Ivory Coast

Mar 14, 2016
Originally published on March 14, 2016 8:04 am
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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Now news of a terror attack in the West African nation of Ivory Coast. The president of that country says 14 civilians including two Westerners were killed by gunmen at a beach resort near the city that is the commercial capital of Ivory Coast. Six attackers are also reported dead. Here's NPR Ofeibea Quist-Arcton.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: The assault on the beach in Grand-Bassam is already being dubbed Black Sunday. The Atlantic Coast weekend getaway, favored by Ivorians and foreigners, is located within easy reach of Ivory Coast's main city Abidjan. President Alassane Ouattara spoke from the scene hours after the attack he described as cowardly terrorism, which, he says, will not be tolerated.

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PRES ALASSANE OUATTARA: (Foreign language spoken).

QUIST-ARCTON: Questions are being raised about Ivory Coast's security preparedness, but the president praised the special forces for their swift intervention in the former French colony emerging from a prolonged Civil War. Witnesses describe panic and people fleeing as masked gunmen opened fire on beachgoers and swimmers along a stretch of three popular hotels and numerous eating spots Bassam. This unnamed survivor recounted his ordeal to journalists.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken).

QUIST-ARCTON: He says, "they shot at one young man without saying a thing and killed him. Then we heard more shooting and they shouted (foreign language spoken), God is great, and moved on." Belgian survivor Charlene Bertin told the BBC she managed to escape with her baby girl. They hid in a bathroom.

CHARLENE BERTIN: We were, like, quite scared because they were all around us. We could hear them shooting right next to where we were like light weapons.

QUIST-ARCTON: After neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso, this third attack in the region since November confirms mounting fears that the threat of Islamist extremist violence is spreading across West Africa. Al-Qaida and the Islamic Maghreb says it was behind Sunday's killings in Ivory Coast. The fearful question in a region on high alert is who's next? Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Dakar. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.