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UK judge blasts 'shambolic' and 'cowardly' Tunisian police at terror attack inquest

Three Irish citizens were among the 38 people killed in the 2015 terror attack at Sousse beach resort.

A policeman stands guard at the scene of the terrorist attack a few days after 38 people were killed
A policeman stands guard at the scene of the terrorist attack a few days after 38 people were killed
Image: Abdeljalil Bounhar AP/Press Association Images

THE TUNISIAN POLICE response to the 2015 Sousse beach resort massacre was “at best shambolic, at worst cowardly”, the judge investigating the deaths of 30 Britons in the attack said today.

“Their response could and should have been more effective,” judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith said in his conclusions after a series of hearings that began in January.

“The response by the police was at best shambolic, at worst cowardly,” he said, adding that the hotel guards were not armed and had no walkie-talkies.

Loraine-Smith said that, with the exception of two marine guards, no police entered the area the shooting was taking place until the gunman had killed 38 people.

One officer is said to have “fainted through terror and panic”, while another took off his shirt to hide the fact that he was an officer.

But the judge said there was no “neglect” by the tour operator TUI because the victims were “not in a dependent position” and said there was “nothing that the hotel might have done before the attack”.

Gunman Seifeddine Rezgui killed 38 people including 30 British tourists and three Irish citizens in a shooting spree in June 2015 at the Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel in Sousse, Tunisia.

The attack was claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group.

“The simple but tragic truth in this case is that a gunman armed with a gun and grenades went to that hotel intending to kill as many tourists as he could,” the judge said.

Loraine-Smith said all 30 British tourists were unlawfully killed.

The British inquest, which is in fact a series of individual inquests into the circumstances of death of each British citizen, is not a trial but the ruling could be used in civil lawsuits by some survivors and victims’ families.

Tunisia’s ambassador to Britain, Nabil Ammar, told BBC radio today: “The police was not ready as it should be”.

A lot has changed now. Many improvements have been made in terms of security services, security efficiency, security of hotels, the level of general security in the whole country.

Little security

Britain’s Foreign Office warns against all travel to some border regions of Tunisia and “all but essential travel” to the rest of the country.

Tunisia’s economy is heavily dependent on tourism and has repeatedly asked for the warning to be lifted.

Samantha Leek, the main lawyer for the inquest, said at one of the hearings that a report by a Tunisian judge had identified failings by local security which could have ended the attack before more police arrived and killed Rezgui.

“He said the units that should have intervened in the events deliberately and unjustifiably slowed down to delay their arrival at the hotel,” she said.

“They had the ability to put an end to the attack before the police arrived but wasted a considerable amount of time in getting to the hotel,” she added.

Ammar said the accusation that the police had deliberately delayed their arrival was “exaggerated and unfair”.

A report on security at the hotels by a British embassy staff member conducted in January 2015 was also read out in court during one of the hearings by Andrew Ritchie, a lawyer representing 20 victims’ families.

“There seems to be little in the way of effective security to prevent or respond to an attack” from the beach, he quoted the report as saying.

© – AFP 2017

Read: An Irish woman is among the dead in the Tunisian resort terror attack

Read: 45 dead in terrorist violence in Tunisia

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