Tunisian death counts are steadily rising and have now reached about 40 people, as authorities investigate a mass shooting that happened at the Imperial Marhaba Hotel in Sousse, Tunisia on Friday, June 26th, 2015. The hotel workers and some local guests were spared as the gunman seemed to be specifically targeting tourists in an attempt to subvert the economy of the region. Many of the tourists were from Great Britain. Italians, Irish and Belgian citizens have also been reported among the dead and injured, so far.
Men, women and children are among those reported dead. Most of the guests piled onto buses following the attack and promptly left the resort. The police were said to have responded about 30 minutes after the attack was reported.
Hotel workers carried bodies from the lobby, the pools, and the sea, where most of them lay injured and dead. Guests were reported to have been told to leave if they were not foreigners. The guests reported that the gunman disguised as a swimmer, hid a machine gun under an umbrella, before opening fire. The gunman was clearly targeting tourists in an attempt to cripple the tourist industry which the Tunisian economy heavily relies on.
The gunman was a 23-year-old student who attended a University and lived in the nearby town of Gaafour. His parents identified him in a photo posted by the ISIS terrorist group. He was said to be an even tempered person who enjoyed music and soccer. He had no criminal record and was not under suspicion of terrorism. So far, he is the only gunman accused in the attack. He was killed in a shoot-out with police officers, at the scene.
The Tunisian authorities have been struggling with terrorism in the region ever since the Arab spring in 2010, which saw the overthrow of then-president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, as well as leaders of neighboring countries such as Egypt, Libya and Yemen. Belgian flights headed towards the country have been cancelled in mid-air and officials are advising against all foreign travel to the region, as it is clear that insurgents in the region are targeting tourists in an attempt to undermine the economy of Tunisia. The people are now gathering in the streets, currently waiting on an address to the public from officials in their government. A statement has been issued from the Tunisian president to local journalists that expressed his regret, calling the attack “worse than terrible.” He also called on other countries in the region to stand up to the threat of terrorism that his country faces.
The hotel, known for its frequency of European tourists, appears to be a target in a symphony of attacks happening simultaneously across the Western world. France and Kuwait have also recently been under attack by persons with ties to the terrorist group ISIS, though whether they are being directly ordered to carry out attacks is still under investigation. This is the second terrorist attack in the country this year, the first occurring in March at a museum. The attack was carried out by armed men, and hostages were taken and killed. Hostages that included foreign visitors to Tunisia, at the time. Although around 20 hostages were killed at the museum attack earlier this year, the coast had not been properly armed and secured against similar threats, which unfortunately, has resulted in the recent tragedy at the Marhaba Hotel.
By Stephanie Butler
CNN: Tourists Flee Tunisia After Resort Attack
The New York Times: Gunman Focused on Tourists in Slaughter at a Tunisian Beach Hotel
Photographs courtesy of Tony Hisgett’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License