At least 16 people were killed when gunmen opened fire on a beach resort in southern Ivory Coast in West Africa. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has claimed responsibility for the attack. According to officials, the gunmen were neutralised.

The attackers gunned down the beach goers in Grand Bassam which is about 40 km Abidjan, the economic capital of Ivory Coast. The attack has escalated concerns over the growing threat of extremism in West Africa.

One of the witnesses in Gram Bassam said that they heard one of the attackers shout “Allahu Akbar” which means “God is greatest.” Ivory Coast’s President Alassane Ouattara said that the attack claimed the lives of 14 civilians and two special forces troops.

According to Interior Minister Hamed Bakayoko, a German and a French were also among those killed by the gunmen.

SITE Intelligence Group, a US monitor, said that the attack in the former French Colony was carried out by Al Qaeda’s North African affiliate. The Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb said in a statement that three of its fighters were killed, but Qattara confirmed the death of six attackers. He also condemned the act calling it a “terrorist” attack, the Mail Online reported.

French President Francois Hollande also condemned the attack and said France would support the West African government in finding the perpetrators.

Ivorian government had stepped up its security to prevent militants from entering the country, especially on its northern border. But the attack in the beach resort town raised concerns that militants may not have been just able to cross the border but also have a greater presence within it. It has further proved the ability of the militants to mix into the public and attack soft targets, the BBC reported.

Marie-Claire Yapi, a tourist at the resort, said that she was waiting for news about her son and sister. “We had just arrived when we heard gunshots — we thought it was a robbery. Someone said to me, ‘Run, this is serious, they are killing everyone,” she was quoted as saying by Mail Online.