Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb took a page out of Islamic State public relations in its rapid claim for attacks in the Ivory Coast that left at least 18 dead.
AQIM, which in December announced a partnership with Mali and Burkina Faso hotel attackers al-Murabitoun and participated in the latter attack in January, posted statements in English, French, Spanish and Arabic on its Twitter and Telegram accounts.
“By the grace of Almighty Allah, three heroes from the knights of Qaedat al-Jihad in the Islamic Maghreb were able to storm the tourist resort ‘Grand Bassam’ located east of the city of Abidjan, in Ivory Coast,” the statement read. “We will follow up with additional details later.”
The claim bore the mark of AQIM’s media wing, Al-Andalus.
News stories from the scene of the attack reported six gunmen slain by security forces, but the Ivory Coast government revised that figure to three after AQIM’s statement.
Three of those killed by AQIM were special forces soldiers who battled the terrorists as they rampaged across three hotels in the coastal resort city. The 15 others were a mix of locals and foreign visitors, the youngest just 5 years old.
Al-Jazeera reported witness Marcel Guy said he saw a bearded gunman speaking Arabic approach two children on the beach. One of the kids knelt in apparent Islamic prayer, while the other did not and was murdered. “The Christian boy was shot and killed right in front of my eyes,” Guy said.
National Security Council spokesman Ned Price commended “the bravery of the Ivoirian and French security personnel who responded to the situation and prevented even worse loss of life.”
“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,” Price said in the statement released late Sunday.
“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.”
State Department press secretary John Kirby said the U.S. will “continue to monitor the situation and provide updated information to the U.S. citizen community as it becomes available.”
“Cote d’Ivoire is an important regional partner to the United States, and in the days ahead we stand ready to support the Ivorian government as it investigates this heinous attack,” Kirby added.
The U.S. Embassy in Abidjan advised U.S. citizens in the country to listen to local authorities for updates on the security situation.
“At this time, the Embassy advises U.S. citizens in Côte d’Ivoire to avoid any unnecessary travel until further notice,” added the notice.