Death toll mounts after Tunisia resort attack

A Tunisian man walks past a blood stain on the ground at the resort town of Sousse, a popular tourist destination 140 kilometers (90 miles) south of the Tunisian capital, on June 26, 2015, following a shooting attack. (AFP)

At least 37 people, including British, German and Belgian tourists, were killed and 36 wounded when at least one gunman opened fire on a Tunisian beachside hotel in the popular resort of Sousse on Friday, Al Arabiya News Channel reported, quoting health sources.

Earlier death tolls were corroborated by the interior ministry.

Police officers control the crowd (rear) while surrounding a man (front C) suspected to be involved in opening fire on a beachside hotel in Sousse, Tunisia, as a woman reacts(R), June 26, 2015. Reuters

Police officers control the crowd (rear) while surrounding a man (front C) suspected to be involved in opening fire on a beachside hotel in Sousse, Tunisia, as a woman reacts(R), June 26, 2015. Reuters

Police were still clearing the area around the Imperial Marhaba hotel and the body of one gunman lay at the scene with a Kalashnikov assault rifle after he was shot in an exchange of gunfire, a security source at the scene said.

It was the second major attack in the North African country this year, and took place during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.

Image of one of the gunmen who carried out the attack in Sousse, Tunisia

Image of one of the gunmen who carried out the attack in Sousse, Tunisia

“One attacker opened fire with a Kalashnikov on tourists and Tunisians on the beach of the hotel,” said a hotel worker at the site. “It was just one attacker. He was a young guy dressed in shorts like he was a tourist himself.”

 A Tunisian medic stands next to the body of a tourist at the Imperial hotel in the resort town of Sousse,

A Tunisian medic stands next to the body of a tourist at the Imperial hotel in the resort town of Sousse,

Tunisia, which has been hailed as a model of democratic transition since its 2011 ‘Arab Spring’ uprising, is one of the most secular countries in the Arab world. Its beach resorts and nightclubs on the Mediterranean are popular with European visitors.

No one immediately claimed the attack. But Islamist jihadists have attacked North African tourist sites before, seeing them as legitimate targets because of their open Western lifestyles and tolerance of alcohol.

Footage taken by the Tunisia News Network shows the aftermath of the attack. 

Panic

Witnesses described scenes of panic and confusion after the shooting at a hotel in the district of Sousse, about 140 kilometers (87 miles) south of Tunis.

Irishwoman Elizabeth O’Brien, who was staying at a neighboring hotel with her two sons, said there was panic on the beach when gunfire erupted.

The body of a tourist shot dead by a gunman lies near a beachside hotel in Sousse, Tunisia June 26, 2015. Reuters

The body of a tourist shot dead by a gunman lies near a beachside hotel in Sousse, Tunisia June 26, 2015. Reuters


“I honestly thought it was fireworks and then when I saw people running... I thought, my God, it is shooting,” she told Irish radio station RTE. “The waiters and the security on the beach started to say ‘Run, run, run!’“

Gary Pine, a product manager from Bristol in southwest England, said he heard an estimated 20 to 30 shots before tourists ran to their hotels for cover.

“Over to our left, about 100 yards (meters) or so away, we saw what we thought was firecrackers going off,” he told Britain’s Sky News television by telephone.

هجوم فندق تونس

هجوم فندق تونس

“But you could see quite quickly the panic that was starting to ensue from the next resort along from us.

“People were exiting the beach pretty quick.

“Only when you could start hearing bullets whizzing around your ear do you realise it was something a lot more serious than firecrackers.

“There was a mass exodus off the beach.

“My son was in the sea at the time and of course my wife and myself were shouting for him to get out the sea quick and as we ran up the beach he said: ‘I just saw someone get shot.’

“As we exited the beach... there was some kind of explosion from the complex next door. So we knew that a situation was developing, if not had ended.

The body of a tourist shot dead by a gunman lies near a beachside hotel in Sousse, Tunisia June 26, 2015. Reuters

The body of a tourist shot dead by a gunman lies near a beachside hotel in Sousse, Tunisia June 26, 2015. Reuters

“I’m now stood in reception with probably 200 other international guests. Do we leave? Do we stay? Where do we go? What do we do?”

Pine said his hotel’s initial advice was for people to lock themselves in their rooms, but then they asked guests to gather in reception.

He said there would have been several hundred people from each hotel on the beach.

“The gunshots I heard, I estimate 20 or 30 shots, it seemed to be quite a bit, hence I thought it was firecrackers. It seemed to break out from nothing at all.”

 Tourists react at the Imperial hotel in the resort town of Sousse following a shooting attack. (AFP)

Tourists react at the Imperial hotel in the resort town of Sousse following a shooting attack. (AFP)

Sousse is one of Tunisia’s most popular beach resorts, drawing visitors from Europe and neighboring North African countries. Tourism is also a major source of income for the government.

Tunisia has been on high alert since March, when Islamist militant gunmen attacked the Bardo museum in Tunis, killing a group of foreign tourists in one of the worst attacks in a decade in the North African country.

 A handout picture release by the Tunisian Presidency on its Facebook page on June 26, 2015, shows Tunisia's President Beji Caid Essebsi (C) visiting a survivor of the mass shooting in the resort town of Sousse, a popular tourist destination 140 kilometres (90 miles) south of the Tunisian capital, at the Sahloul hospital in Sousse. AFP

A handout picture release by the Tunisian Presidency on its Facebook page on June 26, 2015, shows Tunisia's President Beji Caid Essebsi (C) visiting a survivor of the mass shooting in the resort town of Sousse, a popular tourist destination 140 kilometres (90 miles) south of the Tunisian capital, at the Sahloul hospital in Sousse. AFP

Since its 2011 uprising to oust autocrat Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia has been praised for its peaceful democratic transition. But it has also seen the rise of hardline conservative Islamist movements.

Several thousand Tunisian jihadists have left to fight in Syria, Iraq and neighboring Libya, where some have set up jihadist training camps and promised to return to attack their homeland.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:47 - GMT 06:47
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