Tunisia hotel attack: Majority of 38 victims of beach resort massacre 'were British'

Travel operators are evacuating British tourists after terror attack claimed by Isis

Heather Saul
Saturday 27 June 2015 16:37
Tourists comfort each other after the mass shooting in the resort town of Sousse
Tourists comfort each other after the mass shooting in the resort town of Sousse

Most of the 38 victims of a terror attack on a beach resort in Tunisia were British, the country’s Prime Minister Habib Essid has told a news conference.

Mr Essid said victims of the shooting rampage at a resort in Sousse were also from Germany, Belgium and other countries. The British Prime Minister David Cameron warned that the public needs to be prepared for the fact that "many of those killed" in the "savage" Tunisian shooting were Britons, as reports suggested the number of British deaths had risen to eight.

The gunman, who was cornered and shot dead by police, has been identified as Seifeddine Rezgui, a young student who was not previously known to Tunisia’s security services.

The SITE Intel Group, which monitors the activities of jihadists, said Isis took responsibility for the attack on social media and named the attacker as Abu Yahya al-Qayrawani.

Thomson has scheduled 10 flights to return 2,500 holidaymakers to the UK via Manchester, Gatwick, East Midlands and Doncaster airports this morning. The first wave of flights have already begun to arrive at Gatwick airport.

The travel operator said a special assistance team is heading to Tunisia to assist its customers. Thomas Cook has also arranged for an additional flight to transport tourists out of the country.

Tourists are being flown home from Tunisia today

The Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond confirmed the deaths of five Britons and warned that number would likely rise. Mr Hammond said yesterday: "We have to assume that a high proportion of those killed and injured will have been British".

The attacker was wearing a t-shirt and shorts when he began shooting at tourists on a beach. He then entered a swimming pool area with an AK-47 concealed behind a parasol and opened fire on holidaymakers.

British tourist Ellie Makin, from Ripon, North Yorkshire, who was on holiday with her friend, was sitting next to the gunman on a sunbed.

She told ITV News: "He was to the right of me because we were on the last sunbed on the beach. All of a sudden I got up anyway and just happened to look right and all I saw was a gun and an umbrella being dropped.

"Then he started firing to the right hand side of us. If he had fired to the left I don't know what would have happened, but we were very lucky."

One hotel worker in Tunisia who was approached by the gunman told The Independent the man had said he was avoiding Tunisian citizens and only targeting tourists. Another witness corroborated this account, saying the killer smiled and told him: “I don’t want to kill you, I want to hit tourists.”

Tourists are seen leaving the Imperial Marhaba hotel after a gunman opened fire on a beachside hotel in Sousse, Tunisia, June 26, 2015

In another deadly attack on Friday, the decapitated head of a man was found at the site of gas factory near Lyon following an assault by a single man reportedly waving an Islamist flag.

The attacks, which are not thought to be linked, come after Isis called on its supporters to make Ramadan “a month of calamities for the nonbelievers”.

Mr Cameron will chair a second emergency Cobra meeting today to determine how the UK should respond to the massacre. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said the Government was ready to help the victims and their families "in any way that we can".

"The murders in Tunisia and the events in France and Kuwait are a very stark reminder that we can never take our security for granted," he told BBC Breakfast.

Additional reporting by agencies

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments