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Al-Qaeda militants claim Ivory Coast attacks

The al-Qaeda’s North African affiliate has claimed responsibility for the recent deadly attacks in an Ivory Coast resort town that left a total of 22 people dead.

The United States-based SITE Intelligence Group said on Sunday that al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) had claimed responsibility for the assaults, which occurred on the same day.

Six gunmen rampaged through three hotels in Grand Bassam, a resort popular with foreign tourists, on Sunday, killing 16 people, including 14 civilians, before being gunned down by security forces.

The AQIM claimed in a statement that three of its members had been killed in the attacks.

Ivory Coast Interior Minister Hamed Bakayoko said foreigners were among the victims, including citizens from France, Germany, Mali, Cameroon, and Burkina Faso.

He added that an investigation had been launched into the incident and that authorities had obtained a mobile phone belonging to one of the assailants.

Following the incident, Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara visited the site of the attacks.

Ivory Coast’s President Alassane Ouattara speaks to the press outside the Etoile du Sud, one of the three hotels attacked by militants in the Ivory Coast beach resort of Grand-Bassam, March 13, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

According to witnesses, the gunmen randomly opened fire after entering the beach resort, which is located about 40 kilometers (25 miles) east of commercial hub Abidjan.

French President Francois Hollande, whose country lost one national in the attacks, condemned the raids, saying Paris would provide logistical support and intelligence to Ivory Coast in order to help find those behind the assaults.

In recent months, attacks on luxury hotels in the capitals of Ivory Coast’s neighbors Mali and Burkina Faso have left dozens of people dead, leaving West African nations scrambling to boost security in the face of terrorism.

Last November, an attack in Mali claimed the lives of 20 people, while 30 people were also killed in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, in January. Both attacks were claimed by the AQIM, raising concerns that the militants are expanding their operations to areas beyond the Sahara and the arid Sahel region.

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