Heavily armed gunmen stormed the Grand-Bassam beach resort town on Sunday, leaving behind a trail of terror. The attack took place at Grand-Bassam, 40 kilometers (25 miles) southeast of the economic hub Abidjan, claiming at least one German victim, as well, according to German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
According to DW sources, the German victim is the head of the Goethe-Institut in Abidjan, Henrike Grohs. The 51-year-old had been in charge of the German cultural institute since December 2014 sollowing a stint in South Africa.
An employee at the Goethe-Institut in Abidjan said everyone was in shock and deeply distressed.
Ivoirian Interior Minister Hamed Bakayoko added that foreign citizens from France, Burkina Faso, Mali and Cameroon were also among the victims.
Following a coversation with Ivoirian President Alassane Ouattara, French President Francois Hollande confirmed that four French nationals were also among the victims.
France "believes that cooperation between all states under threat by these terrorist groups - particularly in eastern Africa - should be intensified more than ever before," Hollande said.
Armed with grenades and assault rifles, the assailants stormed three hotels in the former colonial capital of Ivory Coast, the world's top cocoa producer, spraying bullets across the beach. Witnesses at the scene said that gunmen had opened fire on swimmers and sunbathers, and then directed their attention towards the busy seafront where people were eating and drinking during lunchtime. As the attack unfolded, terrified people evacuated the area and residents stayed inside their homes. Pictures from the scene showed slain bodies on the beach.
"They started shooting and everyone just started running. There were women and children running and hiding," a witness said at the scene. Another witness said the assailants were heard shouting "Allahu akbar" ("God is great" in Arabic) as they started firing rounds of ammunition.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pledged to help the Ivoirian government "in its efforts to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice." The country's former colonial master, France, also offered to help find the perpetrators, with President Hollande condemning the "cowardly attack."
The DPA news agency reported that al Qaeda's wing in North Africa, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, claimed responsibility for a coordinated attack at three beach hotels in Ivory Coast which killed at least 22 people. The SITE Intelligence group confirmed the reports. It was the third major attack by extremists in West Africa in the past several months, with neighboring Burkina Faso and Mali also being among chief targets.
ss, rg, smm/rc (dpa, AFP, Reuters)