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Gunman Kills 37 People on Tunisian Tourist Beach

Tunisia's Interior Ministry said a gunman killed by police was acting alone when he attacked tourists at the popular Tunisian resort of Sousse on Friday.
Photo par Ivan/Flickr

At least 37 people have been killed and 36 wounded in an attack on a beach in the popular Tunisian resort of Sousse on Friday.

Choukri Nafti, a spokesman for Tunisia's Health Ministry, said two or three of the victims are in critical condition and that there was a shortage of psychological help for survivors of the incident.

The country's Interior Ministry said a gunman killed by police was acting alone when he struck, though spokesman Mohammed Ali Aroui initially claimed that two attackers targeted a number of hotels in the attack, one of whom fled the scene.


As yet, there are no details on the nationalities of the victims, but during the holy month of Ramadan, those on the beach tend to be tourists. They are thought to include Belgian, British, German, and Irish citizens.

Rafik Chelli, one of Tunisia's top security officials, told Mosaique FM that the attacker was unknown to authorities.

He said the man, from the city of Kairouan, came from the beach hiding his Kalashnikov under an umbrella before opening fire on tourists. From there he entered the Hotel Imperial through the pool, shooting people as he went.

The killings in Sousse happened at about the same time as a bombing at a Shiite mosque in Kuwait and an attack on a factory in France that included a beheading. It was unclear if the violence was linked but it came days after Islamic State militants urged their followers "to make Ramadan a month of calamities for the nonbelievers."

Graphic images from Tunisia posted on social media showed a man lying on the beach in his swimming shorts, blood running from his head. A woman was lying beside him, her body covered in a towel.

Other tourists posted photos showing they had hidden in their hotel rooms, mattresses against the door.

This video, from a local news outlet, shows victims of the attack arriving at a local medical facility.

British tourist Gary Pine said he was on the beach and heard what "we thought was firecrackers going off" 100 yards away, followed by an explosion from the next hotel complex along.


"There was a mass exodus off the beach," he told Sky News. Pine said his son said he had seen someone get shot on the beach.

Irish tourist Elizabeth O'Brien was on the beach with her sons when the attackers began shooting. She told RTE Radio that it was about 12 noon when she saw a hot air balloon on the beach collapse. "Then rapid firing, then I saw two of the people who were going to go up in the balloon start to run towards me — because I thought it was fireworks."

O'Brien said she ran straight to the sea to get her children. "As I was running towards the hotel the waiters and the security on the beach started saying 'run, run run,' and we just ran to our room, which is like a little bungalow. So we are actually trapped in our room."

British Prime Minister David Cameron has said that the UK government's crisis committee, COBRA, will meet later on Friday in response to the attacks in Tunisia and France. He offered condolences and "solidarity in fighting this evil of terrorism."

"The people who do these things, they sometimes claim to do it in the name of Islam," Cameron said. "They don't. Islam is a religion of peace." He also said the attackers acted from "a twisted and perverted ideology we have to confront with everything we have."

Sousse is one of Tunisia's most popular holiday destinations, attracting visitors from Europe and North Africa. It is about 86 miles south of the country's capital city Tunis.

This is the second major attack on tourists in Tunisia this year, coming three months after an attack on Tunisia's Bardo Museum when 21 people, also mainly tourists, were killed.

Image via Flickr

The Associated Press contributed to this report.