Tunisia arms tourist police

June 29, 2015 by  
Filed under AFRICA, News

PARIS, 29 June 2015: Tunisia said Sunday it would arm tourist police and deploy hundreds of reinforcements as authorities moved to boost security after a jihadist gunned down 38 people at a seaside resort.

There were similar attacks in France and Kuwait to coincide with the start of Ramadan a fasting month.

In Tunisia, police on horseback and quad bikes patrolled the beach at Port El Kantaoui north of Sousse where the worst jihadist attack in Tunisia’s history took place on Friday.

On Monday, interior ministers from Britain — the country hardest hit — France and Germany will visit the seaside Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel south of Tunis where killings took place.

inside no 9The brutal attack by a lone gunman saw 16 Britons and one German among those killed, and dealt a heavy blow to the vital tourism industry.

Tourists gathered around bouquets of flowers laid in the sand, one asking simply: “Why (did) they die?”

In Tunis, leaders of the North African country scrambled to find ways to bolster security.

The tourism ministry confirmed plans to deploy 1,000 armed officers from 1 July to reinforce the tourism police, who will now also carry guns for the first time.

Armed officers will be deployed “inside and outside hotels”, on beaches and at tourist and archaeological sites, the ministry said.

Authorities have also announced plans to close 80 mosques accused of inciting extremism.

Friday’s attack saw a Tunisian student disguised as a tourist pull out a Kalashnikov assault rifle hidden inside a beach umbrella and open fire on holidaymakers at the seaside hotel.

The shooting wounded 39 people, six who were still in “serious condition” Sunday, the hotel’s Spanish management said.

Witnesses say the attack lasted more than 40 minutes.

Interior ministry spokesman Mohamed Ali Aroui refused to comment on allegations that police were slow to react.

The police arrived “seven to eight minutes” after the shooting began, Aroui told AFP, adding that he is awaiting the results of an inquiry.

“One person alone committed the attack but others helped him for sure,” said Aroui, announcing that the attacker’s mobile phone had been found.

The gunman’s family has been interrogated by police.

inside no 9.1Ireland said on Sunday three of its citizens were killed, and the dead also include a Belgian and a Portuguese.

As the painful efforts to identify the dead continued, several British policemen arrived Sunday at the morgue of the Charles Nicolle hospital in Tunis where the bodies of the victims were kept.

The Foreign Office urged its citizens still in Tunisia to be vigilant, saying there was a risk of further incidents, as Britain mourned the worst loss of life in such an attack since the 2005 London bombings.

Of the 38 killed, Tunisia has identified 20 of the victims’ nationalities so far, 16 of them Britons.

The attack was swiftly claimed by the jihadist Islamic State group, which marks on Monday the first anniversary of its self-declared “caliphate” in parts Syria and Iraq.

The extremist groups has since launched attacks around the world, including one three months ago on the Bardo National Museum in Tunis that killed 21 tourists and a policeman.

With its turquoise waters, stunning archaeological sites and relatively low prices, Tunisia has long attracted European tourists.

But the industry — which accounts for 7% of GDP and almost 400,000 jobs — has been reeling since the 2011 revolution that ousted dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was followed by a rise in jihadist violence.

Shocked tourists have been leaving for home since Friday’s attack, but some holidaymakers said they had chosen to stay.

In the past four years, dozens of police and soldiers have been killed in Tunisia in clashes and ambushes attributed to jihadists — mainly in the western Chaambi Mountains.

© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse

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