Abidjan, March 15, 2016 (AFP) – Al-Qaeda’s North African branch threatened France and its allies fighting against jihadists in the volatile region, in a statement boasting about the group’s deadly weekend attack on an Ivory Coast beach resort. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb (AQIM) said the shooting rampage at the Grand-Bassam resort on Sunday that left 18 people dead was one of a series of operations “targeting dens of espionage and conspiracies”.
It warned that those nations involved in the regional anti-insurgent Operation Barkhane and the 2013 French-led Operation Serval in Mali would “receive a response”, with their “criminal leaders” and interests targeted, according to the SITE group which monitors extremist organisations.
The statement was issued on the eve of a visit Tuesday by French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve to Ivory Coast after the beach attack whose victims included four French nationals. Barkhane, which succeeded Serval in 2014, has at least 3,500 soldiers deployed across five countries — Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger — to combat jihadist jihadist insurgencies.
AQIM warned Ivory Coast and all allies of France in the region that their “crimes will not pass without a response” and issued a wider threat to Western nationals to leave Muslim lands or “we will destroy your security and the security of your citizens”. The group had also claimed the attack on a top hotel and a nearby restaurant in the Burkina Faso capital in January that killed 30 people, and a hostage siege in the Malian capital Bamako in November that cost 20 lives.
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