- WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
- Gunmen with AK-47s and hand grenades targeted a popular tourist resort
- Shooters in balaclavas opened fire on guests at the L’Etoile du Sud hotel
- At least 16 people have been reportedly killed in the attack in Ivory Coast
- Terrifying footage from scene shows holidaymakers running for their lives
Suspected al Qaeda terrorists shot dead a five-year-old boy who fell to his knees and prayed for his life during a terror attack on a tourist resort in Ivory Coast, eyewitnesses have said.
At least four men armed with AK47s and hand grenades killed 16 people, including four Europeans, in the historic town of Grand Bassam before they were gunned down in a shootout with government troops.
One survivor who saw the attack unfold said: ‘They killed a child despite him kneeling down and begging. They shot a woman in the chest. They’ve killed innocent people.’
Another witness, Marcel Guy, said a man with a long beard spoke to two children in Arabic and spared the life of the one who was able to recite an Islamic prayer.
‘The Christian boy was shot and killed right in front of my eyes,’ Guy said.
Of the 16 people who were gunned down in the resort popular with Westerners, 14 were civilians and two were special forces soldiers, Ivory Coast’s President Alassane Ouattara said today.
He said a total of six attackers were later killed by soldiers, adding: ‘I am very proud of our security forces who reacted so fast… The toll could’ve been much heavier.’
The heavily armed, balaclava clad shooters yelled ‘Allah Akbar’ before they opened fired on guests at the L’Etoile du Sud [Southern Star] hotel which was full of expats at the time.
Graphic images showed several dead bodies, some of whom are thought to be French tourists, scattered across the beach near the hotel.
Unconfirmed reports have emerged that several French nationals may have been killed in the deadly attack
The terrorists reportedly were said to be targeting a US delegation led by Assistant Secretary of Commerce Marcus Jadotte, Fox News reported.
However the American embassy in the capital Abidjan, which was monitoring the situation closely today, said there was no evidence that US citizens were being targeted, nor were there any reports of them being harmed.
Mr Jadotte was visiting Ivory Coast with a group of Americans which included college recruiters from the University of Florida. They had not arrived at L’Etoile du Sud when the attack took place.
The attack was the third time in recent months that a West African tourist hotspot has been besieged by gunmen.
Dozens were killed during a siege of a Malian hotel in November, followed by an assault on a hotel and cafe in Burkina Faso in January.
The Burkinabe president Roch Kabore released a statement yesterday condemning the terror attack in Ivory Coast.
‘I condemns in the strongest terms, the terrorist attacks which have just hit the city of Grand-Bassam. I reaffirms the solidarity of Burkina Faso with the fraternal people of côte d’Ivoire.
‘My condolences to the families of the victims and to the Ivorian nation and my best wishes for a speedy recovery to the injured. Together, we will come to the end of terrorism,’ he said.
Analysts have warned for months that Ivory Coast, which shares a border with both those countries, could be a potential target by jihadists as well.
‘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 terrorism expert Lemine Ould Salem.
He said the attackers could be from the ISIS-affiliated Boko Haram terror group that has killed thousands across Africa over several years.
The heavily armed, balaclava clad shooters opened fired on guests at the L’Etoile du Sud [Southern Star] hotel (pictured) which was full of expats
Home to some 80,000 people, Grand-Bassam holds UNESCO World Heritage status thanks to its elegant colonial-era facades. The town has several hotels frequented by expats.
UNESCO describes Grand-Bassam as a late 19th and early 20th century colonial town that ‘bears witness to the complex social relations between Europeans and Africans, and to the subsequent independence movement’.
‘As a vibrant centre of the territory of French trading posts in the Gulf of Guinea, which preceded modern Cote d’Ivoire, it attracted populations from all parts of Africa, Europe and the Mediterranean Levant,’ the UN cultural agency says on its website.