Witnesses have described the horror and chaos of the gun attack on sunbathing holidaymakers in Tunisia that left at least 38 people dead and 36 injured. The shootings took place at about midday in the resort of Sousse, 93 miles (150km) south of Tunis on the country’s east coast. Tourists fled from the beach and barricaded themselves in their hotel rooms after a gunman opened fire on the crowded beach before moving into the pool area of the five-star Imperial Marhaba hotel while firing at tourists, witnesses said.
One suspected gunman was shot dead at the scene, and reports suggested another suspect was apprehended. The attack came on the same day as a bomb exploded at a Shia mosque in Kuwait City, killing 27 people, and a man was decapitated in France following an attack in which a man apparently tried to blow up a factory belonging to a US gas company in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, near Lyon. French police found flags at the factory with Arabic inscriptions.
Of the attack in Sousse, Mohamed Ali Aroui, a spokesman for the Tunisian interior ministry, said: “The perpetrator of the operation was killed, but … there could have been more of them. Whether there were other elements with him, we can’t confirm or deny.” The Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel, where the shootings took place, said the majority of the 565 guests at the hotel were from the UK and central European countries.
The assault took place within hours of two other suspected Islamist attacks in France and Kuwait. One man was detained near Lyon, south-eastern France, after the severed head of his former employer was hung from the gates of a gas factory. French officials said the man detained was known to intelligence services.
In Kuwait City, a suicide bomber attacked a Shia mosque, killing 27 worshippers. Responsibility for the bombing was later claimed by the Islamic State group. There is no evidence that the three attacks were coordinated or connected.
Speaking from the scene several hours after the attack, Tunisia’s president, Béji Caïd Essebsi, called for a global strategy to tackle terrorism and insisted that his country could not be left to face jihadis alone.
The attack – the worst in Tunisia’s modern history – is a devastating blow to a country whose economy relies heavily on western tourism, and comes only three months after another two gunmen murdered 21 people, including one Briton, in an assault on the Bardo National Museum, one of the country’s leading tourist attractions. There were no immediate claims of responsibility. Sousse was also the scene of a failed suicide bombing attempt in October 2013, when a man was spotted approaching a hotel in a suicide vest and chased on to the empty beach, where he blew himself up.
This article by Chris Stephen in Sousse, with additional reporting by Esther Addley and Julian Borger, was originally published in The Guardian