Soldiers in Grand-Bassam, Ivory Coast
Soldiers stand guard on a beach following an attack by gunmen from al Qaeda's North African branch in Grand-Bassam, Ivory Coast, March 14, 2016. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

Two suspects in the recent Ivory Coast terrorist attack have been arrested in neighboring Mali, Agence France-Presse reported, citing local sources. The two Malians were apprehended Friday and Saturday in the north of the West African nation, following indications they “actively participated” in the March 13 rampage on the beach resort city of Grand-Bassam, which was claimed by al Qaeda’s North African wing.

Further details on the suspects’ role in the deadly attack was not immediately clear Saturday, and their identities have not yet been released. The arrests in northern Mali come two weeks after jihadist gunmen shot dead at least 18 people and wounded 33 others at three hotels and a beach in Grand-Bassam, a weekend retreat in southeast Ivory Coast popular with Ivorians and European tourists. Three members of the special forces and 15 civilians were among those killed. Three gunmen also died in the attack, according to Reuters.

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for the deadly raid, the group’s third major attack on hotels since November and the furthest yet from the militants’ traditional desert base in northern Mali. The extremist group claimed responsibility for a deadly attack in January on the Hotel Splendid and Cappuccino Cafe in Burkina Faso’s capital of Ouagadougou, and a siege in November on the Radisson Blu hotel in the Malian capital of Bamako.

With its roots in Algeria, AQIM emerged in 2007 and has said it seeks to spread Islamic law as well as liberate Africans from their French colonial roots. AQIM linked groups operate freely across the vast desert part of Mali, a landlocked country that borders Senegal, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso, among others.

The terrorist group said the recent attack in Ivory Coast, which was the first of its kind in that country, was revenge for a French offensive against Islamic militants in the Sahel region. There are increasing concerns that Senegal could be its next target. The Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, has contributed forces, including Ivorian and Senegalese soldiers, to support France on the battleground in Mali.