Al-Qaida attack will not derail Ivory Coast revival, president says


GRAND BASSAM, Ivory Coast, March 16 - Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara vowed on Wednesday that an al Qaeda-claimed attack on a beach resort that killed 18 people would not derail the West African nation's post-war revival.

Militants, three of whom were later killed, burst onto the beach in the town of Grand Bassam, around 40 km (25 miles) from the commercial capital Abidjan, on Sunday, gunning down swimmers and sunbathers before entering several hotels.

The attack is a heavy blow for Ivory Coast, which has recovered from more than a decade of political turmoil and a 2011 civil war to become one of the world's best performing economies with annual growth averaging around 9 percent.

SEE EARLIER: Al Qaeda gunmen kill 16 in Ivory Coast beach attack

Ouattara won a landslide election victory in October, promising to attract foreign investment to the largest economy in French-speaking West Africa. The country is also the world's top cocoa producer.

"Our march towards (economic) emergence is irreversible. The progress we've made in the past four years must be further reinforced," he said before a cabinet meeting held in the town.

Three Ivorian army special forces soldiers and four French citizens were also killed in the attack, as well as citizens from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, France, Germany, Lebanon, Macedonia, Mali and Nigeria.

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the group's North African branch, said the assault was revenge for a French offensive against Islamist militants in the Sahel.

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Grand Bassam is a popular weekend retreat only a short drive from Abidjan, a cosmopolitan regional economic hub that is home to around five million inhabitants.

The attack came just as the Ivorian government was seeking to revitalize a once lucrative international tourism industry that was decimated by the crisis years.

After visiting the beach in Grand Bassam and laying a wreath in memory of the dead, Ouattara attempted to reassure those employed in local tourism.

"We want to tell the hotels that we must do everything so that life gets back to normal. We must not be intimidated, discouraged by the terrorists," he said. "I am sure that this weekend the hotel business will return to normal."

(Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

Originally published