ABIDJAN, IVORY COAST —
Soldiers patrolled the empty beaches of a resort town in Ivory Coast Monday, one day after armed men launched an attack, killing 18 people.
Interior Minister Hamed Bakayoko said the dead included 15 civilians and three soldiers. He also said all three gunmen were killed. Earlier reports had put the number of gunmen at six.
Bakayoko praised security forces for reacting quickly to end the attack, and said they are still at work to try to see if any more terrorists are on the loose.
"We have organized a wider sweep in all the regions," he said. "We don’t suspect there are more terrorists, but we want to make sure we have the widest possible sweep."
Al-Qaida's North African affiliate, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, claimed responsibility for the attack, which targeted hotels in the city of Grand-Bassam. This was the third time in four months that Islamist militants have targeted hotels in West Africa, following deadly assaults in the capitals of Mali and Burkina Faso.
Heavily armed gunmen opened fire Sunday at a popular Ivory Coast beach resort in Grand-Bassam, March 13, 2016. There was no official report on casualties, but witnesses told VOA they saw between five and 10 shooting victims.
Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara declared three days of mourning. He solemnly addressed the nation Monday evening.
"Côte d’Ivoire will not be intimidated by terrorists. We are doing everything to keep all Ivorians and all people in Ivory Coast safe. I therefore ask you to not give in to fear.," Ouattara told the nation.
Thirty-three people were wounded. Foreign nationals, including four French citizens and a German woman, were among the dead.
Witnesses to Sunday's attack said the assailants wore hooded face masks and arrived on foot on the beach at one of the hotels, the Southern Star. A witness told VOA that four men shouted, “Allahu Akbar!” (God is great) before opening fire.
The United States condemned the "heinous attack," and praised "Ivorian and French" forces for preventing more people from dying.
In Washington, National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said the U.S. is prepared to assist Ivory Coast in its investigation. He reiterated the U.S. commitment to working with others in West Africa to fight terrorists who want to undermine efforts to "build tolerant and inclusive societies."
Grand-Bassam is a former French colonial capital, about 40 kilometers east of the commercial hub of Abidjan, and is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site because of the elegant colonial-era facades of buildings in the city.