At least four Ivorian men were forced to flee their homes after the U.S. Embassy in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, posted a photo of them signing a condolence book for victims of the mass shooting that killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., the Associated Press reports.
According to the report, the photo was posted to the embassy's website, clearly showing the faces of six men with the caption, "LGBTI community signing the condolence book." The photo was taken on June 16, the same day Ivory Coast Prime Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan and other officials also signed the book.
After the photo spread across social media, two of the men said that they were assaulted by an angry mob, who punched and kicked them while shouting homophobic slurs. In total, four of the men, including the two who were attacked, said that they had to leave their homes after being pressured by family and friends who did not know about their sexual orientation.
The men told the newswire that they were not contacted before the photo was published. The embassy, according to AP, did contact the heads of three Ivorian organizations that advocate for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, and those officials gave their approval. Those activists were not in the photo or at the embassy event, the report notes.
The embassy's press officer, Elizabeth Ategou, told AP that the embassy "deeply regrets that any individuals were attacked based on any kind of orientation they might have." She added that the embassy was in contact with the men and urged them to report the attacks to the police.
Nonetheless, the photo was still up on the embassy's website early Wednesday, with Ategou saying that there had been no request to remove it.
One activist from the LGBT-rights group that approved the photo said that he would not have approved the photo if he had known that the men would have been so explicitly identified as members of the community.
As AP notes, same-sex relations are not considered a crime in Ivory Coast, but there are no legal protections for them.
Read more at CBS News.