Gunmen have attacked a vacation resort in Grand-Bassam in southern Ivory Coast, a place popular among foreign tourists. Reports from the ground say several gunmen armed with Kalashnikovs and wearing balaclavas started shooting at people on a section of beach shared by a series of hotels. According to a news release by the Ivorian government, which was later retracted, up to 11 people (half of them foreigners) were killed. Social media reports mention at least 12 deaths. According to eyewitness reports, hostages were taken in one of the hotels close to the beach where the attack began. However, the Ivorian government announced that six attackers were successfully "neutralized" and that security sweeps are ongoing in the area.
In recent months, Mali and Burkina Faso — countries bordering Ivory Coast — have suffered hotel attacks. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for both. The attack on the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako, Mali, left 20 people dead, while 30 were killed in the assault on Hotel Splendid in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, in January. Furthermore, a plot against a hotel in Morocco was thwarted in February, and there have been new warnings of possible plots against hotels in the region, including in Senegal, Chad and Ivory Coast.
Armed assaults against hotels and other soft targets are fairly easy to plan and execute. They are also cost-effective because they do not require many resources other than firearms and willing suicide operatives. Armed assaults do not require much in the way of special training and are not limited to professionals. Most jihadist recruits are trained to use small arms and grenades, so they are well prepared to conduct such attacks. In this case, the relatively low death toll — if it holds — indicates that the gunmen did not have a high level of training. Witnesses at the scene have already published pictures of unused F-1 hand grenades that the attackers left behind, another sign of poor preparation and execution. Hotels remain alluring targets for terrorists, and despite increased security, they remain highly vulnerable.