By Zacheaus Somorin with agency reports
At least 12 persons have been shot dead, including four Europeans, by four gunmen in an attack at Grand Bassam, a beach resort town about 40 kilometers from Abidjan, Reuters reported.
“I saw seven dead that I filmed. There were four attackers. I was swimming when it started and I ran away,” said Dramane Kima, a witness of the attack.
He also took pictures of grenades and ammunition clips that he believed had been left behind by the attackers.
Reports added that the unidentified assailants fired on guests, with much of the shooting taking place on the beach.
The hotel is popular with both local people and foreigners. Ivory Coast was seen as a model of stability in West Africa until a civil war erupted in 2002.
The conflict pitted the mainly Muslim north against the largely Christian south. Since then, peace deals have alternated with renewed violence.
Security forces have been sent to the scene. AFP news agency quoted a military official as saying five people were killed, but other reports put the death toll higher.
A witness of Sunday’s attack said: “Heavily armed men wearing balaclavas” had fired at guests at the L’Etoile du Sud hotel, which was full of expats in the current heatwave.
Another eyewitness, Souleymane Kamagate, says he saw people running from the beach and fleeing in all directions.
Ivory Coast has been identified as one of several countries in West Africa at risk of being targeted by Islamist militants.
Luxury hotels were targeted by such groups in Mali in November and Burkina Faso in January.
But in a press statement issued by the government as obtained by CNN, the gunmen attacked two hotels in southern Ivory Coast; with security forces responding to the attacks promptly.
According to reports, videos from the scene appeared to show people fleeing. A photo posted by Twitter user @lopezdobe showed ammunition magazines and grenades on the ground near the attack site.
The victims include five men, five women and one child, the government added. But it did not specify if these reflected deaths or injuries.