Six people carried out attacks near three hotels in Ivory Coast on Sunday — killing at least 16 people, the government said. Sixteen people, including four Europeans and two soldiers, were killed in Grand Bassam when gunmen opened fire in the popular tourist destination, said President Alassane Ouattara. The attackers were also killed, Ouattara said.
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for the assaults, according to global security firm and NBC News partner Flashpoint Intelligence. The attackers, who were split into two groups, continued the attack for more than three hours, Ouattara said. Special forces troops arrived within 45 minutes, he said.
A statement from French President François Hollande's office said that one French national was among those killed. The president's office condemned the attack and said, "we'll pursue and intensify our cooperation with our partners in the fight against terrorism."
Josiane Sekongo, 25, who lives across from one of Grand-Bassam's many beachfront hotels, told The Associated Press that she heard gunfire and saw people running from the beach. She said security forces arrived as locals hid in their homes.
An official at the U.S. Embassy in the West African nation told NBC News that a U.S. trade delegation was in Grand-Bassam Sunday, but there is no evidence that Americans were targeted or reports of any Americans hurt.
The Embassy is monitoring the situation, the official said. The State Department also said it was not aware of any Americans wounded in the attack. "Our Embassy in Abidjan is making every effort to account for U.S. Citizens in the city, and in the days ahead we stand ready to provide support to the Ivorian government in the investigation," the State Department said.
The deadly attack is at least the third on a West African tourist hub in a year. Extremists besieged a Mali hotel in November and a hotel in Burkina Faso in January. Al Qaeda-linked groups claimed responsibility for both of those attacks.