At least 16 dead following gun attack at Ivory Coast beach resort

The attack happened at a hotel in Grand-Bassam

At least 16 dead following gun attack at Ivory Coast beach resort

Image: Google Earth

At least 14 civilians and two soldiers were killed in an attack by gunmen at an Ivory Coast beach resort popular with tourists, according to the country's president.

A witness said attackers opened fire with rifles as they entered the L'Etoile du Sud (Southern Star) hotel in Grand-Bassam, which is around 40km east of the capital Abidjan. It was one of three hotels targeted, according to the country's Interior Ministry.

The raiders were "heavily armed and wearing balaclavas" and they "fired at guests", a witness told AFP news agency, adding that the large hotel had been "full of expats in the current heatwave".

One of the dead was French, it has been confirmed, while a spokesman for the UK's foreign office said they were "urgently" trying to establish whether any Britons had been among the victims.

Witness Luc Gnago said he had seen six bodies on the beach - one of which he thought was "an assailant" - and one in the hotel, which he described as "a white man".

Residents told of hearing the gunfire and venturing from their houses, before realising what was happening and returning to hide.

A dozen ambulances headed to the scene, joined by military vehicles with heavy machine guns and armed traditional hunters known as Dozo.

A witness told French broadcaster BFMTV he saw "the body of a European woman" and that "two or three" masked attackers were involved.

It is not yet clear if the gunmen are affiliated with any particular militant group and a hotel receptionist told Associated Press: "We don't know where they came from and we don't know where they've gone".

The country's Interior Minister Hamed Bakayoko said six terrorists had been "neutralised".

Over the past few months, attacks have been launched on luxury hotels in the capitals of Ivory Coast's neighbours Mali and Burkina Faso, leaving dozens of people dead and West African nations re-assessing security in the face of the growing threat from jihadists.

Grand-Bassam is home to around 80,000 people and has UNESCO World Heritage status due to the architecture from its French colonial past.