Tunisia attack: Hotel workers speak of moment they risked lives to form human shield

Staff from the hotel next to the Imperial Marhaba protected their guests

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The Independent Online

Some of the Tunisians who formed a human shield to protect tourists as a gunman mowed them down on a beach have spoken of the moment they risked their lives.

After massacring holidaymakers on their sunbeds, Seifeddine Rezgui appeared to head towards the neighbouring Palm Marina hotel but staff formed a line to protect their guests.

Ibrahim al-Ghoul, an 18-year-old paragliding instructor, was one of several locals who tried to stop the rampage on Friday.

He told the Guardian he ran towards Rezgui as he opened fire on Western tourists and formed a barrier against the gunfire with other unarmed men.

“At that point we opened our breasts against the bullets,” he said. “I felt he wouldn't shoot at so many Arabic people in front of him.”

Another man in the barricade, hotel entertainment organiser Yassine Sadkaoui, told the newspaper it felt like “destiny”, adding: “It didn't matter if you got killed or not.”

The men were initially presumed to be onlookers when a photo of them emerged showing them looking after Rezgui as he walked away along the shoreline, gun in hand.

But John Yeoman, who tweeted the attack as he fled for his life, wrote on Twitter: “Those in the background formed a human shield to protect another hotel – they are not watching, they saved many lives.”

Mr Yeoman’s wife told The Independent the hotel staff faced Rezgui and told him they were Muslims.

“They’d actually made a human barricade – ‘you’re not going to get past us, you’ll have to kill us,’“ she added.

“Everyone seems to think ‘it’s the Muslims, it’s the Muslims’, but it is not, it is not their way.

“There are no words to express how grateful we are to them.”

A broken glass window of the Imperiale Marhaba hotel

Workers from the Imperial Marhaba Hotel in Sousse had been chasing Rezgui after he opened fire on the beach and stalked through the resort, gunning down holidaymakers for almost half an hour.

Several witnesses reported that Rezgui singled out Western tourists to kill, telling Tunisian staff to “get out the way” as he opened fire.

“I am not here to kill you. Turn around and go home,” Mr al-Ghoul said he was told.

Rezgui was shot dead by police in a nearby side street, after a local builder dropped roof tiles on his head from above.

Security services reportedly said Seifeddine Rezgui was not the only gunman but politicians said they believed he acted alone with 'logical support'

Theresa May, who was one of several European ministers who laid tributes at the site of the massacre in Sousse yesterday, called the attack claimed by Isis a “despicable act of cruelty”.

Speaking after a memorial, the Home Secretary praised everyone who tried to stop the atrocity.

“I've heard of the horror stories of people who went through this and our thoughts are with the victims and their families,” she said.

“But I've also heard stories of great bravery as well. The young man who shielded his fiancée from the bullets, the staff at the hotel who protected their guests.

“I would like to thank the Tunisian authorities, the Tunisian government and the staff here at the hotel for all they have done to help and support the victims of this despicable act.”

Additional reporting by agencies