TUNIS, Tunisia — Two gunmen rushed from the beach into a hotel in the Tunisian resort town of Sousse Friday, killing at least 27 people and wounding six others in the latest attack on the North African country’s key tourism industry, the Interior Ministry said.
Wielding Kalashnikovs, the gunmen entered the Imperial Marhaba hotel from the beach, said Interior Ministry spokesman Mohammed Ali Aroui said. Security forces responded, killing one of the attackers, while the hunt for the second attacker is still ongoing, he said.
“A terrorist infiltrated the buildings from the back before opening fire on the residents of the hotel, including foreigners and Tunisians,” he told the state news agency.
There were no details about the nationalities of the victims, but during the holy month of Ramadan Tunisia’s Muslim population is less likely to go the beach, so those there would have been predominantly foreign tourists. Local radio said most of the dead were German or British.
The rampage followed two other terror attacks Friday in France and in Kuwait City. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for an attack at a Shiite mosque in Kuwait City that killed at least 16 people, while a man with ties to Islamic radicals rammed a car into a gas factory in southeastern France, where a severed head was also found on a post at the entrance.
British tourist Gary Pine told Sky News his son saw someone who got shot at the resort in Tunisia.
“There was a mass exodus off the beach,” he said, adding guests at his hotel were first told to lock themselves in their rooms, and later to gather in the lobby.
Elizabeth O’Brien, an Irish tourist on holiday with her two sons, told Irish Radio she was on the beach when she heard what she initially thought was fireworks.
“I thought ‘oh my God, it sounds like gunfire’, so I just ran to the sea to my children and grabbed our things,” she said, before fleeing to her hotel room.
Since overthrowing its secular dictator in 2011, Tunisia has been plagued by terror attacks _ though only recently have they targeted the vital tourism sector.
In March, two gunmen attacked the national museum in Tunis killing at least 22 people, all but one tourists.
A group pledging allegiance to the radical Islamic State group claimed that attack and has promised more in Tunisia.
Tourism is a major part of the Tunisian economy, especially in coastal resorts like Sousse and it suffered in the aftermath of the 2011 revolution.
With a return to stability and new elections in late 2014 it was slowly recovering, until the attack on the Bardo museum. The effect from that weighed on tourism receipts again: income from tourism in the first five months of 2015, was 15 per cent less than the previous year.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy confirmed that one of the two beachside hotels where tourists were shot in Tunisia is owned by the Spanish company RIU.
The company’s media office said RIU’s board of directors was holding an emergency meeting following the attack.