Tourists flee Tunisia after deadly hotel attack kills 39

Tourists fill buses heading to airport to return home, after bloody beach resort attack claims lives of 39, mostly tourists

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Busloads of tourists are heading to the nearby Enfidha-Hammamet airport hoping to return to their home countries, following a deadly attack on the Imperial Marhaba hotel which killed dozens of foreign tourists.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said a majority of the dead tourists are likely to be British and UK tour operator Thomas Cook was among the travel agents which began evacuating its customers from Tunisia on Saturday.

It said on Twitter that it has arranged an additional plane to depart from Tunisia to fly home anyone wishing to leave.

The death toll from the Imperial Marhaba hotel attack in the eastern Sousse city of Tunisia on Friday has risen to 39, the Tunisian Interior Ministry announced. The number of casualties could rise further.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement posted on a Twitter account. The attacker was later reported to be Abu Yahya al Qairawani, a Tunisian masters student in Engineering.

Most of those killed in the attack were British, Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid told a news conference on Saturday.

Secretary of State for Security affairs Rafik Chelli, said the attack was organised by a university student from Kairouan city.

Photos of the incident surfaced on social media, showing several people in bathing suits dead on the beach. Following an exchange of gunfire there were casualties, with one gunman shot dead by police, according to Reuters.

The gunmen were armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles. Aside from the one attacker who was shot dead, it is yet to be announced how many other assailants took part in the attack.

Sousse is one of Tunisia's most popular beach resorts, drawing visitors from Europe and neighbouring North African countries.

Tunisia has been on high alert since March when militant gunmen attacked the Bardo museum in Tunis, killing 22 foreign tourists in one of the worst attacks in a decade in the North African country.

The consecutive catastrophes are expected to cause a heavy blow to Tunisia's tourism industry, which accounts for nearly 15 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

TRTWorld and agencies