Al Qaeda’s North African branch said its attack on a beach resort in Ivory Coast on Sunday that killed 18 people was revenge for a France’s offensive against Islamist militants in the Sahel region and called for its forces to withdraw.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve arrived on Tuesday to reassure the large French community and boost the investigation into the attack in Grand Bassam, in which four French citizens died.
Three Ivorian special forces personnel were killed and three of the attackers were also among the dead.
The statement by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb was posted on the group’s social media accounts on Monday.
“We repeat our call to all countries involved in the French invasion of Mali to withdraw,” it said, naming the attackers but giving no further details of their identities.
France launched Operation Serval to oust militants from northern Mali and replaced it in 2014 with Operation Barkhane which targets militants across the Sahel region.
Ayrault and Cazeneuve met President Alassane Ouattara and were due to visit the site of the attack and meet representatives of the French community.
It was the first such militant raid in Ivory Coast but the third high profile attack in the region since November, after 20 people were killed at a hotel in Mali and 30 died in an attack on a cafe and hotel in Burkina Faso in January.
Islamic State, which is based in Syria and Iraq, has also singled out France as a target and claimed responsibility for the attack in Paris in November in which 130 people were killed.
“It is our way of life that is being questioned, our will to succeed, our development, democracy and liberty,” Ayrault told journalists.
Ivory Coast has French-speaking West Africa’s largest economy and has recovered from a decade of political crisis to boast one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.