President admits Tunisia was not prepared for beach massacre

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi listens during his meeting with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (File Photo: AP)

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi admitted in an interview broadcast Tuesday that the country was not prepared for last week's jihadist beach massacre.

Essebsi said security had been boosted in other areas for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a time of Islamist violence in previous years, but that the authorities had not expected the beaches to be a target.

"It is true that we were surprised by this incident," Essebsi told France's Europe 1 radio.

"They made arrangements for the month of Ramadan, but never did they think they would need to do so on the beaches."

Essebi's comments came a day before Tunisia is to deploy 1,000 armed officers to reinforce tourism police along its Mediterranean coastline in a bid to reassure European holidaymakers and limit the damage to its tourism industry.

Late Monday, Tourism Minister Selma Elloumi Rekik told reporters she feared Tunisia may lose a billion dinars ($515 million, 460 million euros) in tourism earnings this year.

Thirty-eight people were killed in Friday's attack, the majority of them British tourists.

A Tunisian identified as 23-year-old Seifeddine Rezgui pulled a Kalashnikov assault rifle from inside a beach umbrella and went on a bloody rampage on the beach and beside a hotel pool.

The gunman was eventually shot dead but there has been criticism of the length of time it took.

"If there were failings, disciplinary action will be taken immediately," Essebsi said.

It was the second jihadist attack targeting tourists in Tunisia in three months. In March, an attack on the National Bardo Museum in the capital killed 22 people.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:46 - GMT 06:46