Tunisia attack: What we know about what happened

  • 30 June 2015
  • 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.

Thirty of those killed have been confirmed as British and were staying at the Hotel Rui Imperial Marhaba and neighbouring Hotel Rui Bellevue Park. Others are still being treated in hospital.

This is what we know so far about what happened, based on information from officials and witnesses.

Full coverage of the Sousse attack

Image caption Map showing route gunman took as he ran through the hotel and then back out to the beach before running up a side alley.

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

Witnesses described how the gunman, identified as 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 told the BBC how 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

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

Carly Lovett, 24, a University of Lincoln graduate from Gainsborough, died when a grenade was thrown in her direction, according to The Daily Mirror.

What sounds like an explosion can also be heard on some of the video shot by witnesses.

However, BBC journalists who attended a briefing at the hotel said there were no signs of any grenade damage inside the building.

Red Crescent volunteer Wassim Jomaa told how he received a call from the emergency services at 12:30 asking him to get a team of helpers to the hotel as quickly as possible.

He said he and two volunteers arrived within 15 minutes and were helping people who had been injured around the pool area.

"We mostly have to deal with car crashes or accidents on the beach; it was the first time I saw people who had been shot," he said.

They gave first aid to a number of wounded people, and recovered several bodies.

Gunman flees scene

Witnesses say 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.

Media captionFootage appears to show the gunman running along the shoreline after the Tunisia beach attack

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

Some reports have suggested that shots were fired at the neighbouring Hotel Bellevue Park and there have also been unconfirmed claims a second man was involved in the attack.

However, Tunisian authorities said Rezgui was the only attacker, but that he had accomplices who provided him with weapons and logistical support, reports AP news agency. Several people have been arrested.

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

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

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 told Channel 4 News how Rezgui began firing wildly in the street, at which point the police returned fire and shot him. 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 bears the scars of bullets.

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 ccounts

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. Unlike many Tunisian radicals he was not believed to have gone to Syria or Iraq to join militants fighting there.