More than a dozen people in Ivory Coast have been killed in an attack on a several popular beach hotels on Sunday.
Six armed militants targeted beach-goers and hotel guests in Grand-Bassam, a historic resort town located about 25 miles east of Abdijan, Ivory Coast.
The gunmen killed 14 people, according to Ivory Coast's President Alassane Ouattara; he says the six militants have also been killed. Ouattara is visiting the sites of the shootings to express his condolences.
The hotels in Grand-Bassam are frequented by both locals and foreign tourists, NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton says.
"Witnesses describe heavily-armed gunmen shooting guests on the beach, before opening fire on nearby hotels," Ofeibea tells our Newscast unit.
She says Ivory Coast is currently experiencing a heat wave, driving visitors to the tourist destination.
The militant Islamist group al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, has claimed responsibility for the attack, according to the SITE intelligence group.
The capitals of nearby Mali and Burkina Faso have recently been struck by similar attacks on upscale hotels, which were also claimed by AQIM.
A hotel in Bamako, Mali, was attacked in November and more than 170 guests were taken hostage, with more than 20 fatalities. A hotel in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, was stormed in January; 126 people were taken hostage and about 20 people killed. Both hotels were popular with Westerners.
AQIM claimed joint responsibility for the Mali attack and sole responsibility for the Burkina Faso attack. This is the third attack in West Africa since October for which AQIM has claimed responsibility.
Regional governments have tightened security and vigilance — and their armies recently took part in Operation Flintlock counter-terrorism exercises in Senegal, organised by the Pentagon.
Meantime, NSC Spokesman Ned Price has issued the following statement on attack.
The United States condemns in the strongest terms today's terrorist attack in Grand-Bassam, Côte d'Ivoire. We extend our deep condolences to the families and loved ones of those who have been killed in this heinous attack. Our thoughts and prayers also are with those who have been injured. We commend the bravery of the Ivoirian and French security personnel who responded to the situation and prevented even worse loss of life, and the Department of State continues to coordinate with partners on the ground to verify the safety of American citizens in Côte d'Ivoire. The United States stands with the Ivoirian people and will remain a steadfast partner to the Government of Côte d'Ivoire as it continues making extraordinary progress strengthening its governing and economic institutions. We are prepared to assist the Ivoirian government in the coming days as it investigates this tragic terrorist attack.
We will also continue partnering with regional governments and international partners to fight the terrorists who seek to undermine efforts by West African governments to build tolerant and inclusive societies, improve governance, and expand economic opportunity.