Africa

Tunisia attack: What happened

  • 13 January 2017
  • From the section Africa
Images of the Tunisia attack Image copyright EPA,AP,REUTERS

Thirty-eight people lost their lives when a gunman opened fire on tourists staying in the popular resort of Port El Kantaoui, just north of Sousse in Tunisia in June 2015.

Thirty of those killed were British tourists staying at the Hotel Rui Imperial Marhaba and neighbouring Hotel Rui Bellevue Park. Three people from Ireland, two Germans, one Russian, a Belgian and Portuguese woman also died.

So-called Islamic State (IS) said it was behind the attack by Tunisian student Seifeddine Rezgui.

Full coverage of the Sousse attack


Gunman arrives: approx 11:30 local time (10:30 GMT)

Witnesses described how Tunisian student Seifeddine Rezgui, arrived on the beach by jet ski or speedboat at approximately midday local time on Friday 26 June.

Rezgui began making his way along the beach, pulling a Kalashnikov from a parasol and opening fire indiscriminately at tourists on sunloungers outside the five-star Hotel Rui Imperial Marhaba.

"He went down to put it [the parasol] in the sand and then he took out his Kalashnikov and began shooting wildly,'' Rafik Chelli, secretary of state of the Tunisian Interior Ministry said.

British holidaymaker Steve Johnson said tourists first thought the sound of gunfire was "fireworks".

"But it was soon pretty obvious that it wasn't fireworks, that it was firearms that were being discharged and people screaming and starting to run," he said.

As holidaymakers fled for their lives, the gunman continued his attack, entering the hotel complex via the pool area.


Gunman enters hotel

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The Hotel Imperial Marhaba is popular with British tourists

Rezgui made his way towards the hotel reception, where he is reported to have lobbed at least one grenade into a staff corridor, killing a woman who had taken shelter there.

Carly Lovett, 24, a University of Lincoln graduate from Gainsborough, is believed to have been killed in a grenade blast.


Gunman flees scene

The gunman then escaped back out to the beach, where he was filmed running past the neighbouring Hotel Riu Bellevue and up a side alley, still armed with his gun and at least one other grenade.

A hotel worker also filmed his own pursuit of Rezgui from the hotel complex, along the beach and out onto the street.

Media captionFootage of the attack in Sousse was filmed by a member of hotel staff

Gunman shot: approx 12:30 local time (11:30 GMT)

After the gunman fled the beach, local builder Mayel Moncef spotted Rezgui from his rooftop vantage point and hurled a pile of tiles down on his head.

He said Rezgui began firing wildly in the street, at which point the police returned fire and shot him. Mr Moncef said he spotted a grenade roll from the attacker's hand as he fell.

Ajmi Boubakir, who runs a souvenir shop in the same street, described how he gave shelter to a crowd of about 35 tourists who were fleeing the gunman.

After staying inside for more than an hour, Mr Boubakir looked outside to discover security forces heavily deployed and the gunman laying dead in the street.

He "was shot 20m (66ft) away from my shop, right there," he said, indicating the end of the alleyway.

Mr Boubakir's car, which was parked in front of the shop, was caught in the crossfire and his building's wall also bore the scars of bullets.

Media captionThe BBC's Ben Brown and Rana Jawad in Sousse report on what is known about the gunman's final moments

Tunisia attack: The British victims

Survivors' stories

Who was the gunman?

Image copyright AFP
Image caption This image of the Seifeddine Rezgui was distributed by IS-linked social media accounts

Rezgui was a student of electronics and not previously known to the security service. However, Islamic State (IS), which admitted carrying out the attack, referred to him by a nom de guerre - Abu Yahya al-Qayrawani.

He was from the town of Gaafour in Tunisia's interior and had studied in the city of Kairouan.

Rezgui is believed to have worked with gang who attacked the Bardo National Museum three months before the Sousse attack and trained alongside one of the gunmen at an IS camp in Libya

A BBC Panorama investigation revealed Chamseddine al-Sandi was named as the "mastermind" behind the attacks, paying for the attackers to go to Libya and giving them their orders.

Al-Sandi is now believed to be on the run in Libya.