Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has condemned the perpetrators of an assault on a beach town in Ivory Coast as cowardly "barbarians."

Visiting Ivory Coast on Friday, Sarkozy placed flowers at a memorial at the hotel Etoile du Sud, one of several sites attacked on Sunday in the town of Grand-Bassam that left 19 dead, in addition to three gunmen.

In brief remarks, Sarkozy said Ivory Coast was targeted because it's a democracy where Muslims and Christians co-exist peacefully.

Sarkozy is a divisive figure in Ivory Coast, having led France during its military intervention in Ivory Coast's post-election violence in 2011 that brought President Alassane Ouattara to power.

Sarkozy was also scheduled to meet with Ouattara and to speak at Ivory Coast's biggest university.