The casualty toll in an attack by Islamist militants on a beach resort in Ivory Coast rose to 15 civilians and three members of the country's special forces killed and 33 people wounded, Interior Minister Hamed Bakayoko said.

Three Islamist militants who stormed the resort in the town of Grand Bassam were also killed, he said at the end of a cabinet meeting.

The armed men attacked beachgoers outside three hotels Sunday, sending tourists fleeing. Bloody bodies were sprawled on the beach before being taken away by security forces and Ivorian Red Cross workers.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for the attack, according to SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist websites. The Islamic extremist group made the declaration in a post to its Telegram channels, calling three of the attackers "heroes" for the assault.

Grand Bassam is a UNESCO World Heritage site and popular destination for Ivorians and foreigners about 40 kilometres east of Abidjan, Ivory Coast's commercial centre. It was the third major attack on a tourism centre in West Africa since November.

with files from The Associated Press