Attack at Tunisia Beach Hotel Leaves at Least 37 Dead – The New York Times

by Newsstand

TUNIS — At least one gunman disguised as a vacationer attacked a placid seaside resort in Tunisia on Friday, killing at least 37 people at a beachfront hotel before he was shot to death by security forces. It was the second major terrorist attack on the Tunisian tourist industry in a little more than three months.

The audacity of the assailant, armed with a Kalashnikov rifle, suggested a sharp escalation from the relatively low-level political violence that has bedeviled Tunisia since its Arab Spring revolt four years ago.

Government officials and witnesses offered conflicting accounts of the assault, with some saying that two gunmen, who had possibly come ashore in a rubber dinghy, had ambushed tourists at the Imperial Marhaba Hotel in Sousse, which is popular with German vacationers.

Others said that there was a single gunman but that the police were searching for possible accomplices. There were unconfirmed reports that the violence extended to a second hotel.

Twenty people were wounded in the attack, including five British tourists, who were being treated at a city hospital, Tunisian news media reported. The nationalities of the other victims were not immediately clear.

No group claimed responsibility in the hours after the attack. The Tunisian authorities have struggled to suppress a small but violent Islamist insurgency that has sprung up in the four years since the uprising that forced out the former president, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and set off the Arab Spring.

But Islamist extremist groups have been threatening attacks against the Tunisian government, its security forces and its institutions for months. They have frequently mounted attacks against police and army units over the past two years, but appeared to turn their focus recently to the tourism industry, which offers easy targets and is vital to the Tunisian economy.

    • There was no indication that the series of attacks on Friday were coordinated. Here’s what we know so far:
    • ▪ On Tuesday, an Islamic State spokesman had called on the group’s followers to escalate attacks during Ramadan and to turn the month into a time of “calamity for the infidels.”
    • ▪ At least one assailant at an American-owned chemical plant near Lyon, France, decapitated one person and tried to blow up the factory.
    • ▪ Two gunmen opened fire on a beach in Tunisia, killing at least 27 people. Security forces killed one of the attackers; the other fled.
    • ▪ Islamic State claimed responsibility on Twitter for a suicide bombing at a Shiite mosque in the Kuwaiti capital after Friday prayers that killed at least eight.
    • ▪ At least 100 civilians have died in two days of fighting between Kurdish forces and Islamic State militants in Kobani, Syria, where the Kurds fought back the terrorist group six months ago.

The attack in Sousse, Mr. Ben Ali’s hometown, comes just over three months after two gunmen killed more than 20 people, almost all of them foreign tourists, in a mass shooting at the Bardo National Museum in Tunis. The two men had been radicalized in Tunisia and trained in an Islamist militant camp in Libya in the weeks before the attack.

In Sousse, the assailant who was killed wore black shorts and a T-shirt, and his body lay sprawled on the street, his assault rifle beside him. He dressed as a tourist and carried the rifle concealed in an umbrella, said Rafik Chelli, secretary of state for the Interior Ministry. The police identified him as a young Tunisian from the town of Kairouan with no prior police record, Mr. Chelli said.

Paris/St.-Quentin-Fallavier – France
One person decapitated in chemical plant attack.

Sousse, Tunisia
Dozens killed when gunmen attacked a hotel.

Kuwait City/Kuwait

More than eight killed in an explosion at a mosque.

The tourism minister, Salma Elloumi, who has worked conspicuously to support the industry and encourage foreign visitors, said on national radio that the Sousse attack was a “catastrophe” for Tunisia.

Legislators immediately called for new measures to stop such attacks. The leader of the Popular Front movement, Hama Hammami, called the Sousse assault a “hideous crime” that was aimed at terrorizing Tunisians. Two politicians with the Popular Front were assassinated in 2013 by Islamist extremists.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s foreign minister, condemned the attack on the resort as “cowardly” and expressed his sympathy to the families of the “many people we must expect will be victims of this attack.”

Several German tour companies offer vacation packages to the Imperial Marhaba Hotel, but the Foreign Ministry had no immediate information about whether any of its citizens were among the victims. A spokesman said the German Embassy in Tunis was in “close contact” with the Tunisian authorities.

Attack at Tunisia Beach Hotel Leaves at Least 37 Dead – The New York Times.