The Latest: Germany says 1 citizen killed in Tunisia attack

AP News
|
Posted: Jun 27, 2015 1:34 PM
The Latest: Germany says 1 citizen killed in Tunisia attack

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — The latest news from an attack on a beach resort in Tunisia (all times local):

___

6:30 p.m.

Germany's foreign minister says one German citizen has been confirmed killed and another wounded in the attack at a beach resort in Tunisia.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Saturday that many people who were reported missing have now been tracked down but added: "We cannot at this point entirely rule out a few more Germans being among the victims."

Steinmeier said that "attempts to knock Tunisia off its courageous path through terrorist attacks such as in Sousse ... will not and must not succeed."

German federal prosecutors said they opened an investigation into the resort attack. That was standard procedure because authorities in Germany are required by law to investigate the killing of any German citizen, at home or abroad.

A Tunisian security official has said that the attacker had concealed his weapons in a beach umbrella before he killed 38 people on Friday. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

___

5 p.m.

A hotel employee in Tunisia says the gunman who killed 38 people also used grenades as he moved methodically from the beach to the pool area and into the lobby.

Imen Belfekih, who works for the Imperial Marhaba Hotel in the resort of Sousse, has told The Associated Press that "when he came he tossed a grenade and we saw only black — it was smoky."

Belfekih, who hid with guests during Friday's attack in the hotel's offices, spoke Saturday from a hospital where she was visiting a friend being treated for shrapnel wounds.

Several other guests described hearing explosions as they hid from the gunman, who was also armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle.

A security official has said that the gunman had concealed his weapons in a beach umbrella before he killed 38 people on Friday. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

___

4:45 p.m.

A British official says at least 15 Britons have been killed in the Tunisia beach attack and that the British toll "may well rise."

Tobias Ellwood, a senior Foreign Office official, said Saturday that it was "the most significant terrorist attack on the British people" since July 7, 2005, when suicide bombers struck the London transport network, killing 52 people and wounding hundreds of others.

On Friday, a gunman pulled an assault rifle out of his beach umbrella and killed 38 people in the Tunisian resort of Sousse. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

___

4:25 p.m.

Ireland's foreign minister says the government suspects that two other Irish citizens are among the dead in Tunisia in addition to nurse Lorna Carty.

Charlie Flanagan said Saturday that "in addition to the fatality made known yesterday, I can confirm that there is grave concern for two other Irish citizens who had been at the scene of the attacks at Sousse, Tunisia."

A gunman pulled an assault rifle out of his beach umbrella and killed 38 people on Friday. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

A special flight, meanwhile, brought Irish tourists home early from Tunisia. Those departing Dublin Airport described scenes of terror in their hotel Friday as panicked guests, some bleeding from wounds or screaming about loved ones shot outside, ran down hotel hallways and pounded frantically on locked doors begging to be let inside.

Many described hearing explosions, not just gunfire, and speculated they were grenades.

___

2:25 p.m.

A major German tour operator says more than 300 customers who had planned to travel to Tunisia this summer have called asking to change their bookings, most of them seeking to change destinations.

TUI said Saturday that other vacationers want to stick to their plans, but didn't give numbers. It said it brought home the first 80 customers from Tunisia on Friday night and another 120 will follow over the weekend — although some of those had been booked to return now anyway.

TUI on Friday offered free cancelations or re-bookings for customers who had booked vacations in Tunisia through Sept. 15. It said it had also canceled planned excursions in Tunisia for the next three days as a precaution.

___

2:15 p.m.

A scattering of foreign tourists are still wading in the sea on the beach in front of the hotel in Tunisia where a gunman killed 38 people before he was killed by police.

Police boats patrolled the waters Saturday while police on horseback rode the beach and some holidaymakers parasailed behind speedboats in the water.

A German tourist laid flowers at the edge of the scene of Friday's attack and shed tears for the victims.

While many tourists have left, Welsh couple Angela Chambers and Peter Phillips said they declined their tour operator's offer to take them to the airport last night.

"I think we feel safer here than last night going to the airport," said Chambers. Phillips added that "we want to see our holiday out."

___

2:00 p.m.

The director of the Enfidha-Hammamet airport in Tunisia says it has set up special procedures to accommodate the flood of passengers seeking to leave the country after the terror attack that left 39 people dead, including the gunman.

Mohamed Walid Ben Ghachem said about 15 extra flights have been scheduled at the airport since yesterday, with nine already leaving, carrying 1,400 passengers. He noted that four of the planes left empty, indicating that least 1,000 people had decided to stay on after the attack.

British tourist Matthew Price said he was cutting his weeklong vacation short by three days and even though it was his third visit to Tunisia, he expected it to be his last.

"It's the first time I've ever been on holiday and feared for my life. So obviously you can't come back somewhere it's not safe," he said.

___

1.40 p.m.

A spokesman for the Health Ministry says a total of 39 people were wounded in the attack at a Tunisian beach resort, including 21 who have already left the hospital.

Chokri Nafi told The Associated Press that 18 are under observation, including two who are in critical condition.

He said the nationalities of the injured include seven Tunisians, 25 Britons, three Belgians, one German, one Ukrainian, one Russian and one who has not yet been identified.

He said the attack in the beach resort town Sousse left 39 people dead, including the gunman.

The Tunisian Ministry of Health has confirmed the nationalities of 10 of the 39 deceased, including eight Britons, a Belgian and a German.

___

12.50 a.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has spoken to Tunisia's president and pledged to step up cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

A German government statement says Merkel offered her condolences to President Beji Caid Essebsi in a phone call Saturday following the attack by a gunman in a Tunisian beach resort that left 39 people dead. Merkel assured him that Germany "stands by Tunisia's side in these difficult hours."

The statement says Germany will concentrate on support to secure Tunisia's borders, without giving details, and noted that Essebsi had raised that wish when he attended the Group of Seven summit in Germany earlier this month.

Tunisian authorities say at least one German was killed in Friday's attack. German officials haven't yet confirmed that there were any German victims.

___

12.40 a.m.

France's foreign minister says no French victims have been identified from the deadly terror attack in Tunisia that killed many foreign tourists, contradicting an assertion by Tunisia's prime minister.

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius says tour operators were being summoned to his ministry Saturday and were being asked to bring home any French citizens who want to return after the attack a day earlier in the Tunisian beach resort of Sousse.

The Tunisian Ministry of Health has confirmed the nationalities of 10 of the 39 victims of the attack, including eight Britons, a Belgian and a German. The government of Ireland said an Irish nurse was also among those who were killed.

Earlier, Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid said a French citizen was also among the dead. However, citing conversations with Tunisian officials, Fabius said: "At this stage — I emphasize at this stage — no French victims have been identified, but we have to remain very watchful."

___

12.00 a.m.

The Tunisian Ministry of Health has confirmed the nationalities of 10 of the 39 victims of the terror attack in the beach resort town Sousse.

It said Saturday they included eight Britons, a Belgian and a German.

The Irish government has also confirmed an Irish citizen was among those killed by a lone gunman, who has been identified as Seifeddine Rezgui. He was killed by police who responded to the attack on Friday.

The health ministry said it has authorized the transfer of the deceased to the Charles Nicolle hospital in Tunis to accelerate their repatriation.

___

11.50 a.m.

Tour operators from across Europe are evacuating their customers from Tunisia and cancelling travels to the country after the terror attack at a beach resort that left 39 people dead.

British travel companies Thomson and First Choice say thousands of tourists are being flown back home from Tunisia Saturday and they are cancelling all flights to Tunisia in the coming week. Britain's largest travel association, ABTA, says it estimates that some 20,000 British tourists are currently on holiday in Tunisia.

Major tour operators in Denmark, Sweden and Norway said they have stopped all travels to Tunisia for the rest of the season although the Scandinavian foreign ministries have warned its citizens to be vigilant and not advised them against travelling there.

A spokesman for the Slovak Foreign Ministry, Peter Stano, said Slovakia is sending a passenger jet to Tunisia for about 150 of some 600 Slovak tourists who are currently in Tunisia and who wish to return home after the attack.

___

11.35 a.m.

At Tunisia's Hammamet airport tourists were lining up to leave the country after the terror attack in the beach resort town Sousse that left 39 people dead.

Even those who weren't staying in Sousse as visitors said they cut their vacations short out of fear.

Kathrin Schneider, a German tourist, said she stayed some 40-50 kilometers (25-30 miles) from Sousse and had felt safe during the whole holiday.

"But as soon as we heard, we were quite happy to leave because you don't feel that safe anymore if something happens like that," she said. "They can come to the beach where we stayed as well so we were happy to leave."

"A lot of people in our hotel left today," she added.

She said many had families and "if you have kids to look after, it's probably better to leave."

___

11.25 a.m.

The government of Ireland has confirmed that an Irish nurse has been killed in the terrorist attack on tourists in Tunisia.

Relatives and family friends say Lorna Carty was fatally shot as she sunbathed. She and her husband, Declan, had received the holiday as a present to help Declan Carty relax following his recent heart surgery. Family friends speaking to the couple's two children say Lorna Carty went ahead of her husband to the beach, where she suffered fatal gunshot wounds and was pronounced dead in hospital.

The couple, both aged in their 50s, lived in the village of Robinstown northwest of Dublin where the Cartys run a dairy farm. She worked as a nurse in a local private clinic. At the time of Friday's attacks, their 18-year-old daughter was holidaying with friends in Turkey while their 21-year-old son was home minding the farm.

Irish Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan says Ireland's diplomat responsible for Tunisia, Ambassador to Spain David Cooney, was arriving Saturday in Tunisia to help determine whether other Irish nationals were wounded or killed in Friday's attack.

Tourist flights from Ireland to Tunisia have continued in the wake of the attack, but travel agents are offering full refunds for those canceling. A flight Friday night to the Tunisian city of Monastir, another coastal tourism center south of Friday's attack, left Dublin after a three-hour delay with about 110 of the booked 170 passengers aboard.

___

11.15 a.m.

The head of the Imperial Marhaba Hotel says everyone is being vacated from the hotel that was at the center of the attack at a Tunisian beach resort that left 39 people dead.

Mohammed Becheur said Saturday that before the attack, 75 percent of the hotel's 370 rooms were booked, one of the highest occupancy rates in the resort city of Sousse.

"We may have zero clients today, but we will keep our staff," he said outside the hotel a day after the rampage by a lone gunman. "This summer will be hard but we are confident for the long term."

The beach area behind the hotel is blocked off and being patrolled by plainclothes men with guns. The chaise lounges and straw umbrellas are all carefully in place. Three Germans laid flowers on an overturned beach chair.

Employees at the nearby Mouradia Palace hotel expressed fear that they would soon be out of jobs as the attack comes right at the start of high season.

___

10.40 a.m.

Belgian tourist Clause Besser has described from his hospital bed how he heard gunshots on the beach in a Tunisian resort town and tried to flee as a gunman killed at least 39 people.

Besser recounted early Saturday how he took a bullet as he ran away from the shooter at the beach in Sousse.

"It's really sad but what can you do, for everyone, for the tourists, for the people who died, for their families," he said.

"For me, somehow, with a bullet in the leg, it's not a catastrophe. For those who died or injured for life, it's something else," he added.

Tunisia's Prime Minister Habib Essid has identified the shooter, who was killed by police after the attack, as Seifeddine Rezgui. According to the SITE intelligence group, the Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

___

10.00 a.m.

Tunisia's prime minister says an initial investigation shows the gunman who killed at least 39 people at a beach resort was from a village in a poor central region of Tunisia and had never traveled abroad.

Habib Essid said Seifeddine Rezgui, who was killed by police after the attack Friday in Sousse, was not previously known by authorities. He said he came from the town of Gaafour in the governorate of Siliana and had been a student at Kairouan university.

The Islamic State group has claimed credit for the attack, identifying the gunman by his jihadi pseudonym Abu Yahya al-Qayrawani, the SITE Intelligence Group has reported.

The attack was one of three from Europe to North Africa to the Middle East that followed a call to violence by IS extremists.

According to the prime minister, the victims included many Britons, as well as Germans, Belgian and French.

___

9.10 a.m.

The morning after a lone gunman killed at least 39 people at a beach resort in Tunisia, busloads of tourists are heading to the nearby Enfidha-Hammamet airport hoping to return to their home countries.

The attack in the Tunisian resort of Sousse was the worst ever in the country and came just months after the March 18 massacre at the national Bardo museum in Tunis that left 22 people dead, again mostly tourists. It is expected to deal a heavy blow to the country's tourism industry, which accounts for nearly 15 percent if Tunisia's gross domestic product.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has said a high proportion of the casualties is likely to be British and U.K. tour operator Thomas Cook was among the travel agents that started evacuating its customers from Tunisia Saturday.

It said on Twitter it has arranged an additional plane to depart from Tunisia to fly home anyone wishing to leave.