IS-claimed at­tack forces Tu­nisia to beef up se­cu­rity

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY ELAINE GAN­LEY AND BOUAZZA BEN BOUAZZA

Tu­nisia’s prime min­is­ter on Satur­day called for all cit­i­zens to work to­gether to de­feat ter­ror­ism as thou­sands of tourists pre­pared to leave the North African coun­try in wake of its worst ter­ror­ist at­tack ever.

Tourists crowded into the air­port at Ham­mamet near the coastal city of Sousse where a young man dressed in shorts on Fri­day pulled an as­sault ri­fle out of his beach um­brella and killed 39 peo­ple, mostly tourists.

“The fight against ter­ror­ism is a na­tional re­spon­si­bil­ity,” said a vis­i­bly ex­hausted Habib Es­sid at a press con­fer­ence in Tu­nis early Satur­day. “We are at war against ter­ror­ism which rep­re­sents a se­ri­ous dan­ger to na­tional unity dur­ing this del­i­cate pe­riod that the na­tion is go­ing through.”

He an­nounced a string of tough mea­sures to fight ex­trem­ism, in­clud­ing ex­am­in­ing the fund­ing of or­ga­ni­za­tions sus­pected of pro­mot­ing rad­i­cal­ism, clos­ing some 80 mosques out­side gov­ern­ment con­trol and declar­ing cer­tain moun­tain­ous zones mil­i­tary ar­eas.

He iden­ti­fied the shooter, who was killed by po­lice af­ter the at­tack, as Seifed­dine Rezgui, a young stu­dent at Kairouan Univer­sity. A tweet from the Is­lamic State group claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the at­tack and gave his ji­hadi pseu­do­nym of Abu Yahya alQayrawani, ac­cord­ing to the SITE in­tel­li­gence group.

At the Im­pe­rial Marhaba Ho­tel where the at­tack took place, vans and buses were car­ry­ing away tourists on Satur­day. While the ho­tel was not ac­tu­ally clos­ing down, the tour op­er­a­tors had urged ev­ery­one to leave, the di­rec­tor said.

“We may have zero clients to­day but we will keep our staff,” said Mo­hammed Becheur, adding the 370-room ho­tel had been at 75 per­cent oc­cu­pancy be­fore the at­tack.

Tourism is a key part of Tu­nisia’s econ­omy and had al­ready fallen some 25 per­cent af­ter a ter­ror­ist at­tack on the na­tional mu­seum in the cap­i­tal Tu­nis that killed 22 peo­ple in March.

“It’s re­ally sad but what can you do, for ev­ery­one, for the tour- ists, for the peo­ple who died, for their fam­i­lies,” said Bel­gian tourist Clause Besser, as he re­cov­ered in the hos­pi­tal from a gun­shot wound he re­ceived flee­ing from the at­tacker. “For me, some­how, with a bullet in the leg, it’s not a catas­tro­phe. For those who died or were in­jured for life, it’s some­thing else.”

Bri­tish travel com­pa­nies Thom­son and First Choice said they are fly­ing back thou­sands of tourists from Tu­nisia Satur­day and are can­celling all flights to the coun­try in the com­ing week. Tourist flights from Ire­land to Tu­nisia have con­tin­ued in the wake of the at­tack, but travel agents are of­fer­ing full re­funds for those can­cel­ing. Slo­vakia has sent a plane to evac­u­ate some 150 of its cit­i­zens who are cur­rently in Tu­nisia, ac­cord­ing to the For­eign Min­istry and Scan­di­na­vian tour op­er­a­tors have stopped all flights to the North African coun­try for the rest of the sea­son.

The Tu­nisian Min­istry of Health has con­firmed the na­tion­al­i­ties of 10 of the 39 vic­tims of the at­tack, in­clud­ing eight Bri­tons, a Bel­gian and a Ger­man. The gov­ern­ment of Ire­land said an Ir­ish nurse was also among those who were killed.

AP

A young woman lays flow­ers at the scene of a shoot­ing in Sousse, Tu­nisia on Satur­day, June 27. The morn­ing af­ter a lone gun­man killed at least 39 peo­ple at a beach re­sort in Tu­nisia, bus­loads of tourists are head­ing to the nearby En­fid­haHam­mamet air­port hop­ing to re­turn to their home coun­tries.

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