Tunisia attack: Sousse police slow to respond - PM Essid

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Media caption"The time of [police] reaction - this is the problem," Tunisia's PM Habib Essid told Richard Galpin

Tunisia's prime minister has told the BBC that the slow response of police to last week's deadly attack on a tourist resort was a major problem.

On Friday Habib Essid took part in a minute's silence to remember the 38 people who were killed in the town of Sousse, south of Tunis, a week ago.

He said he was deeply sorry for the attack, in which 30 Britons died.

Mr Essid said the government believed there was only one gunman, and that he had links to a known terrorist group.

Mr Essid said the attacker had trained in Libya, "probably" with the Ansar al-Sharia group, "who did everything to form him as a terrorist".

Ansar al-Sharia in Libya is thought to be behind the 2012 attack on the US mission in Benghazi, in which the US ambassador was killed.

Islamic State (IS) had earlier said it was behind the Sousse attack.


Reports in the British press said the assault took place over almost 35 minutes, and that the gunman was able to return to kill some of the wounded before the police arrived.

He was eventually shot dead in an alley.

"The time of the reaction - this is the problem," Mr Essid told the BBC's Richard Galpin.

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Media captionHotel workers have been losing their jobs ever since the attack happened, as Rana Jawad reports

Mr Essid said Tunisia sent its condolences to the British government and to the Queen over the deaths of the British tourists.

"We feel really sorry about what happened," he said. "They were our guests. They came to spend their vacation with us, but what happened is a horror, unacceptable."

The gunman, identified as Seifeddine Rezgui, came onto the beach from the sea either by jet ski or speedboat at about midday.

He started shooting on the beach, entered the Hotel Imperial Marhaba and ran out of the front of the hotel before the police shot him dead.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The gunman has been identified as Seifeddine Rezgui

The attacker had travelled to Libya between December 2014 and January 2015, Mr Essid said.

Police are holding eight suspects in custody on suspicion of being directly linked to the attack. Four others who were held have been released.

The group that planned this attack was also behind the deadly shootings in the Bardo Museum in Tunis in March, Mr Essid added.

As well as the 30 Britons, other victims of the Sousse attack included three Irish citizens, two Germans, one Belgian, one Portuguese and one Russian national.

It was the deadliest attack in Tunisia's recent history.