Sun, Jun 28, 2015 - Page 6 News List

Tunisia attack claimed, ‘vices’ blamed

HERO THANKED:Tourist Saera Wilson said she owed her life to her hospitalized fiance, who she said used his body to shield her and suffered three gunshot wounds

AFP, PORT EL KANTAOUI, Tunisia

Tourists comfort each other after a shooting in the resort town of Sousse, Tunisia, on Friday.

Photo: AFP

The Islamic State group yesterday claimed responsibility for a massacre in a Tunisian seaside resort that killed nearly 40 people, most of them British tourists, in the worst attack in the country’s recent history.

Dozens more were wounded when a man pulled a gun from inside a beach umbrella and opened fire on crowds of tourists at the five-star Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel in the popular Mediterranean resort of Port El-Kantaoui.

Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid said 38 people had been killed, revising down an earlier toll of 39 given by the Tunisian Ministry of Health.

A ministry official told reporters that the original figure had included the dead gunman.

Most of those killed were from Britain — implying this could be the biggest loss of British life in a militant attack since the July 2005 bombings in London when 52 died — while Germans, Belgians, French were also among the dead, Essid said.

British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Philip Hammond said earlier that five Britons had been killed and he expected the toll to rise, while his Irish counterpart confirmed an Irish woman was among the dead.

The attack, the second against tourists in Tunisia this year, came on the same day that 27 people were killed at a Shiite mosque in Kuwait and a suspected Islamist attacked a factory in France.

The Islamic State claimed both the bombing and the attack in Tunisia, which came at the start of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan and just days before the first anniversary of the group declaring its territory in Iraq and Syria a “caliphate.”

The Islamic State said the gunman, who they identified as Abu Yahya al-Qayrawani, was a “solider of the caliphate” who had targeted enemies of the militant group and “dens [of] ... fornication, vice and apostasy.”

Most of those killed were “subjects of states that make up the crusader alliance fighting the state of the caliphate,” the group said in a statement released on Twitter, referring to the group of countries that have been bombarding its positions in the Middle East.

The attack, along with the killings in France and Kuwait, sparked a chorus of international condemnation, with the White House vowing to “fight the scourge of terrorism” and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon saying those responsible for the “appalling” attacks “must be swiftly brought to justice.”

Tunisian Secretary of State for Security Rafik Chelly told Mosaique FM that the gunman was a Tunisian student previously unknown to authorities.

“He entered by the beach, dressed like someone who was going to swim and he had a beach umbrella with his gun in it. Then when he came to the beach he used his weapon,” Chelly said.

Witnesses described scenes of panic after the shooting at the hotel on the outskirts of Sousse, about 140km south of the capital Tunis.

“All I saw was a gun and an umbrella being dropped,” British tourist Ellie Makin told ITV television. “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.”

The shooting was the worst in modern-day Tunisia and followed a March attack claimed by the Islamic State group on Tunis’ Bardo National Museum that killed 21 foreign tourists and a policeman.

British tourist Gary Pine told Britain’s Sky News television that Friday’s attack happened when the beach was packed. He counted 20 to 30 shots.

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