Tunisian policemen charged for 'poor reactivity' over Sousse massacre that left 39 dead

The police's delay in arriving at the scene was because the officers had to race back to get bulletproof vests and guns

Tunisian authorities have charged six police officers over the beach massacre last summer in which 39 people were killed. 

Those detained include the chief of the brigade responsible for protecting tourists in the resort town of Sousse, and five officers from the same unit. They were charged with “poor reactivity”. 

There have previously been dozens of alleged militants arrested in connection with the attack, but the Tunisian authorities have not offered any more details about the events surrounding the massacre in June last year. 

In the days following the murders, troubling questions were raised, including in reports by The Independent, about why the police took so long to arrive at the scene – nearly 40 minutes. Despite the resort-filled beachfront being one of the largest tourist destinations in the country, police were seemingly unprepared for the attack. 

Groups of local youths tried to protect the fleeing Western tourists, until police shot gunman Seifedinne Rezgui as he left the scene. 

One of those arrested was the man who had shot Rezgui, an act for which he had previously been honoured by President Beji Caid Essebsi. The policeman’s brother said in an interview yesterday that the arrests had come as a surprise. “In the beginning they congratulated them for a job well done,” he said. 

He said his brother had been questioned three times by investigators before the arrests were made. 

The delay in arriving at the scenes, according to the brother, was because the officers had to race back to get bulletproof vests and guns.

The police trade union in Sousse held a sit-in in protest over the arrests of their  colleagues on Thursday. Police defenders say they are under equipped, underpaid, and lack proper training and experiencing to deal with  the growing risk from armed militants.

Until 2012, Tunisia had little history of such attacks. 

Thirty British holidaymakers were among those murdered in the massacre, and a British inquest is due later this year or early 2017.

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