2015 Sousse attacks
Tunisia Terror Attack: New Footage Of Rampage
BBC Panorama – Terror on the Beach (2015)
Some of the Victims
Most were with friends, family, spouses or partners. Tributes have been paid.
The couple from Leeds were on holiday together in Sousse when they were killed, with their family saying they are “deeply saddened” by their deaths.
Sandwell Council gas department worker Adrian Evans was killed along with his 78-year-old father, Patrick, and nephew Joel Richards.
A talented referee and footballer, the Birmingham County Football Association said the 19-year-old had “the world at his feet”.
Trudy Jones, a 51-year-old divorced single mother-of-four, had been on holiday with her friends.
The 72-year-old was on holiday with his wife, Rita, when he was shot dead.
A regular visitor the Hotel Riu Imperial Marhaba, the grandmother-of-four was on holiday with her family.
The Perth couple’s family had initially appealed for information about their whereabouts, before revealing the pair were among the victims.
The 24-year-old fashion and beauty blogger from Lincolnshire was staying in Tunisia with her fiance, Liam Moore.
Lorna Carty, from County Meath in Ireland, was on holiday with her husband, Declan, who was recovering from heart surgery.
Ms Davey and Mr Chalkley were both Severn Trent Water employees.
Laurence and Martina Hayes, from Athlone, County Westmeath, were both in their 50s.
Claire Windass was next to her husband, Jim, on the beach when she was killed.
Jim and Ann McQuire, aged 66 and 63, were from Cumbernauld, in north Lanarkshire, Scotland.
Stuart Cullen was with his wife on holiday in Tunisia and died instantly after being shot.
Philip Heathcote was with wife Allison in Tunisia for a holiday to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary
Both retired, Denis and Elaine Thwaites were from Blackpool in Lancashire and had arrived in Sousse two days before the attack.
Stephen Mellor was in Sousse with wife Cheryl, who he was shielding from bullets when he was killed on the beach.
John Welch, 74, and Eileen Swannack, 70, were confirmed as dead by Eileen’s granddaughter, Lucie Marie.
The family of John and Janet Stocker paid tribute to the “happiest, most loving couple” after it was confirmed they were killed in the Tunisia beach attack.
David Thompson, 80, was a retired scientist from Tadley in Hampshire.
John Stollery, a 58-year-old social worker from Nottinghamshire, was on holiday with his wife Cheryl and their son.
The 32-year-old engineer from Watford was on holiday with his wife, Gina Van Dort, when he was shot dead.
Leicester couple Ray and Angie Fisher remained unaccounted for until almost a week after the atrocity.
|2015 Sousse attacks|
|Part of 2015 Ramadan attacks|
|Location||Riu Imperial Marhaba and Soviva, Port El Kantaoui, Sousse, Tunisia|
|Date||26 June 2015
|Target||European tourists staying at a hotel|
|Deaths||39 (including the perpetrator) |
|Assailant||Seifeddine Rezgui Yacoubi|
Thirty-eight people, thirty of whom were British, were killed when an armed gunman attacked a hotel. It was the deadliest non-state attack in the history of modern Tunisia, with more fatalities than the twenty-two killed in the Bardo National Museum attack three months before.
In October 2013, a suicide bomber blew himself up in a botched attack on a Sousse beach while security forces foiled another planned attack nearby. The post-Tunisian revolution led to the 2014 parliamentary election in which the principal secularist party gained a plurality but was unable to govern alone, and ultimately formed a national unity government. Secularist Beji Caid Essebsi was elected president in the Tunisian presidential election, 2014. Since the overthrow of Ben Ali, terrorism has increased leading to 60 victims among security and military troops. Other attacks targeted civilians and tourists. Despite this, Tunisia was considered to be a secure country. On 18 March 2015 the Bardo National Museum in Tunis was attacked by three terrorists, leading to the deaths of twenty-two people, including twenty foreigners visiting the museum. Two of the gunmen, Tunisian citizens Yassine Labidi and Saber Khachnaoui, were killed by police, while the third attacker is currently at large. Police treated the event as a terrorist attack. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) claimed responsibility for the attack, and threatened to commit further attacks. However, the Tunisian government blamed a local splinter group of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, called the Okba Ibn Nafaa Brigade, for the attack. A police raid killed nine members on 28 March. After the Bardo attack, the government announced new security measures and declared the country safe again.
On 26 June 2015 the Spanish-owned five-star Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel at Port El Kantaoui, a tourist complex situated on the coast about ten kilometres north of Sousse, Tunisia, was hosting 565 guests mainly from Western Europe, 77% of its capacity. Tourists from the hotel as well as from the Soviva Hotel located nearby went to the beach to swim and sunbathe.
At around noon, Seifeddine Rezgui Yacoubi, disguised as a tourist, socialised with others, and then took out a Kalashnikov assault rifle concealed in a beach umbrella and fired at the tourists on the beach. He entered the hotel, shooting at people he came across. He was killed by security forces during an exchange of fire. All bullets were found to have been fired from the one weapon; the attacker had four magazines of ammunition. The attacker had spoken to his father on a mobile telephone which he then threw into the sea just before the attack; it was retrieved.
An Interior Ministry spokesman said that they were sure that others helped, but did not participate directly, providing the Kalashnikov, and helping Rezgui to the scene.
Thirty-eight people were killed, thirty of whom were British. Among the fatalities was Denis Thwaites, a former professional footballer for Birmingham City, and his wife, Elaine. Thirty-nine others were wounded.
Perpetrator and associates
The killer, Seifiddine Rezgui Yacoubi, also known as Abu Yahya al-Qayrawani, (born 1992 in Gaafour) was a 23-year-old electrical engineering student at University of Kairouan from Gaafour, in northwest Tunisia. He did not have the typical traits of an extremist: he had a girlfriend, drank alcohol and was a local break-dancing star. He was also believed to be high on cocaine during his rampage. He is believed to have been radicalized over such issues as the Libyan Civil War and Western inaction against the savagery of the Assad government during the Syrian Civil War.
Rezgui is thought to have been recruited by Ajnad al-Khilafah, an outgrowth of the Tunisian branch of Ansar al-Sharia, which was founded by Saifallah Ben Hassine, who had lived in the UK in the 1990s and whose mentor during that time was Abu Qatada. High Court papers relating to a control order placed on a British-based suspect state that Ben Hassine “aimed to recruit new members and send them to Afghanistan for training”. The control order documents add that: “Abu Qatada appears as a watermark running through the whole of this case as being the mastermind.”
Ben Hassine is reported to have been killed by the USAF near Adjabiya in eastern Libya on 14 June 2015. The strike was designed to kill Mokhtar Belmokhtar in an Ansar meeting. After the overthrow of Tunisia’s President Zine el-Abedine Ben Ali in 2011, Ben Hassine was released from jail in March 2011 under an amnesty, and later founded Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia, which resisted proscription until 2013 arguing it was carrying out humanitarian work, even though Ben Hassine personally had led the storming of the US Embassy in Tunis on 14 September 2012, three days after Ansar’s Libyan counterparts killed US ambassador J. Christopher Stevens in Benghazi, Libya. When Ansar was finally outlawed in August 2013, after the murders of two secular leftist MPs, he was listed as a proscribed terrorist by the United States, and he fled to Libya.
Qatada wrote in a letter published online in January 2014 that Ben Hassine “is among the best of those I have known in intellect” and “the most knowledgeable of people of my intentions … for he was the closest of people to me”.
Immediately after the attack, the flight JAF5017 on its way to Enfidha-Hammamet International Airport was redirected to Brussels. German tour operator TUI offered German tourists the opportunity to fly back to Germany and to cancel or adjust their bookings in Tunisia. British tour operator Thomson announced that flights to Tunisia will be cancelled until at least 9 July 2015, with ten flights departing on the evening of the attacks to bring 2,500 customers in the resort back to the United Kingdom. EasyJet and Thomas Cook announced that customers planning to visit Tunisia would be able to change their travel plans free of charge. First Choice also announced the same.
Hotels were to be targeted in future attacks both to undermine tourism and because they were considered “brothels” by ISIS. Both tourism and the related industries accounted for up to 14.9% of the Tunisian economy in 2014.
The United Kingdom‘s Home Secretary Theresa May and Foreign Office Minister Tobias Ellwood visited the site of the shooting on 29 June 2015. It was also announced that a Royal Air Force aircraft would be sent in order to repatriate bodies and evacuate the injured back to the United Kingdom. On 29 June an RAF Boeing C-17 Globemaster III flew from RAF Brize Norton to Tunisia to recover four British victims, with the C17 returning via Birmingham Airport to unload one patient, and returning to Brize Norton with the other three.
On 29 June, the House of Commons chamber observed a minute of silence shortly before the Prime Minister David Cameron announced that a national minute of silence would be held on 3 July 2015 at 12:00 local time to remember the victims, exactly one week on from the attacks. Cameron later led several COBRA meetings. The Foreign Office sent a team to the hotel to support British survivors and know more about the British victims. The Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner announced an heightened police presence and security for Armed Forces Day and Pride London events taking place in London over the weekend. On 28 June 2015, Her Majesty The Queen said she and the Duke of Edinburgh were shocked by the attack and also offered their deepest sympathy to the injured. Scotland Yard‘s SO15 Counter Terrorism Command (CTC) launched their largest anti-terrorism investigation since the 7 July 2005 London bombings, involving 600 police officers and support staff. 16 British counter-terrorism police were deployed to Tunisia in the direct aftermath of the attacks, and almost 400 officers were sent to British airports to identify potential witnesses to the attack who had returned home.
On 1 July, the bodies of eight British nationals who were killed in the attacks were flown from Tunisia to RAF Brize Norton. On 2 July, the bodies of a further nine British nationals who were killed in the attacks were flown to RAF Brize Norton and the Prime Minister David Cameron and Defence Secretary Michael Fallon began making calls for airstrikes in Syria, believing the Sousse attacks to have been coordinated from there. On 3 July, the United Kingdom held a nationwide minute’s silence at 12:00 local time to remember the victims of the attacks as government buildings and Buckingham Palace flew the Union Jack at half mast. A further eight bodies of British victims were repatriated back to RAF Brize Norton. On 4 July, the final five bodies of the British victims were repatriated back to the United Kingdom.
Tunisia – President Beji Caid Essebsi called for a global strategy against terrorism and visited Sousse with Prime Minister Habib Essid, who promised to close 80 mosques within the week. The government also plans to crack down on financing for certain associations as a countermeasure against another attack. Essid announced new anti-terrorism measures, including the deployment of reserve troops to reinforce security at “sensitive sites … and places that could be targets of terrorist attacks.” The “exceptional plan to better secure tourist and archaeological sites” will include “deploying armed tourist security officers all along the coast and inside hotels from 1 July,” and that:
|“||The country is under threat; the government is under threat. Without the cooperation of everyone and a show of unity, we cannot win this war. We have won some battles and lost others, but our objective is to win the war… Some mosques continue to spread their propaganda and their venom to promote terrorism. No mosque that does not conform to the law will be tolerated.||”|
Beji Caid Essebsi also denounced the “cowardly” attacks, promising “painful but necessary” measures to fight extremism in the country. He called for a firm response: “No country is safe from terrorism, and we need a global strategy of all democratic countries,”
On 4 July, Essebsi removed from his post the provincial Governor of Sousse and at least five senior police officers. Among the policemen dismissed were three from Sousse, one from Gaafour (the home city of Rezgui) and one from Kairouan, where Rezgui was studying.
On 22 July, Tunisian MPs began a three day debate on new counter-terrorism legislation. The legislation would allow the courts to impose deaths sentences to those convicted of terrorism related offences. The legislation would also make public support of terrorism a jailable offence. If passed, the bill would allolw law enforcement and security services to tap phone calls of individuals suspected of terrorism.
- Belgium – Prime Minister Charles Michel said his “thoughts are with the relatives and victims in Tunisia”.
- Germany – Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that “attempts to knock Tunisia off its courageous path through terrorist attacks such as in Sousse … will not and must not succeed.”
- Ireland – Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan said “I condemn unreservedly the terrorist attacks in Tunisia, Kuwait and France today” and added that “Attacks like these sow fear and prompt revulsion, but they advance no political cause”. In light of the UK’s FCO 8 July change to advice to nationals re travel to Tunisia, Ireland updated its advice to a warning against “all non-essential travel”.
- Russia – President Vladimir Putin offered his condolences and the Kremlin said they have “confirmed readiness to cooperate most closely with the Tunisian leadership in fighting terror threat”.
- United Kingdom – Prime Minister David Cameron criticised the perpetrators and supported the Tunisian Government following the attack. On 8 July, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office changed the advised status of Tunisia to “Advise against all but essential travel”, resulting from 9 July in the planned return home of the estimated 3,000 British nationals in Tunisia at that time. Habib Essid said the country had “done everything it can” to protect tourists, and that he planned to speak to counterpart David Cameron about the decision. ABTA and travel organisations First Choice, TUI and Thomson’s have stated that they plan to send no further British tourists to Tunisia until post 31 October 2015.
Other Islamist attacks
Four other Islamist attacks took place on the same day in France, Kuwait, Syria and Somalia. The attacks followed an audio message released three days earlier by ISIL senior leader Abu Mohammad al-Adnani encouraging militants everywhere to attack during the month of Ramadan. No definitive link between the attacks has yet been established. One attack, at a French factory, resulted in the beheading of one person; another bombing at a Shia mosque in Kuwait City killed at least 27; and the other attack on an African Union base in Somalia undertaken by Al-Shabaab, killed at least 70. Another attack on the day took place in Hasakeh in Syria. A suicide bomber blew himself up and killed 20 people.