2 July 2015, Update on Tunisia Sousse hotel massacre

03 July, 2015 Hotel Attacks

Since first reporting on the Hotel Riu Imperial Marhaba massacre on 27 June in Sousse, Tunisia, Muir Analytics has collected additional information on the sequence of the attack. Here is the updated version:

One month before the attack, a group called Ajnad al-Khilafa issued a warning to vacationers heading to Tunisia. Ajnad al-Khilafa means “Caliphate Soldiers.” The group surfaced publically in April and is reportedly an ISIS affiliate. It has also been referred to as Ajnad al-Khilafa in Ifriqiya, with Ifriqiya meaning the Tunisia-Libya-Algeria area.

The warning said: “To the Christians planning their summer vacations in Tunisia, we cant accept u in our land while your jets keep killing our Muslim Brothers in Iraq & Sham. But if u insist on coming then beware because we are planning for u something that will make you forget #Bardoattack.”

Sham here refers to “the Levant,” today commonly meaning the region of Lebanon, Syria, and nearby countries. (The term “ash Sham” means Damascus, however). #Bardoattack refers to the 18 March Bardo Museum attack in Tunis that killed 21. Overall, the statement is typical of strict Islamist jihadi laws of warfare that require fighters to warn their victims before attacking them.

As previously reported, the Sousse attack began at approximately 12:00 pm Tunisia time on the beaches of the Hotel Riu Imperial Marhaba and the Soviva Resort.

Authorities now say that only one terrorist participated in the massacre, not two as originally reported.

On the other hand, several witnesses and anonymous security personnel, reports the Daily Mail, assert there was more than one gunman, and they gave details about a man in red shorts with an AK-47 attacking hotel patrons. This line of inquiry remains open.

Seifeddine Rezgui arrived near his target area by van, but copious reporting still had him arriving by jet ski for days after the attack.

Slightly more detail has been added to the sequence of Rezgui’s attack. He apparently pretended to be a sunbather and mixed with beachgoers before drawing his AK-47 from a folded umbrella and shooting them. Before opening fire, he also reportedly made a 10-second phone call on his cell, possibly to his father.

From there, he shot people in the pool area, and possibly the reception area, at the Imperial Marhaba.

Reports of Rezgui throwing some kind of grenade seem to be validated not just by eyewitnesses that said they heard explosions, but also by a photograph of a deceased Rezgui in the Daily Mail with an AK-47 by his side and what appears to be a homemade explosive device and a grenade-like fuse.

Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel staff says Rezgui yelled at Tunisians, telling them to flee, and that he was there to kill foreigners, not locals. There are multiple instances of Tunisian hotel staff shouting at Rezgui to cease his attack, throwing objects at him, rescuing hotel patrons, and even forming a human chain to fend off the gunman.

These same people report Rezgui stopped on occasion to photograph his victims, laughing as he did so.

Ultimately, Rezgui left the hotel, entered a side street, and engaged police in a short firefight where he was killed. A photo of a dead Rezgui shows his AK-47 selector switch on semi-automatic. He reportedly had four magazines. Toxicology reports indicate some kind of amphetamine in Rezgui’s system, possibly cocaine.

The final casualty count was 38 killed, and 39 wounded. By nationality, the deceased victims, reports Daily Sabah, (quoting the Tunisian Ministry of Health), were:

  1. UK – 30
  2. Irish – 3
  3. German – 2
  4. Portuguese – 1
  5. Russian – 1
  6. Belgian – 1

The wounded, by nationality, were:

  1. UK citizens – 25
  2. Tunisians – 7
  3. Belgians – 3
  4. German – 1
  5. Russian – 1
  6. Ukrainian – 1
  7. Unknown nationality – 1

The high British casualty count will likely motivate the UK government to not only spearhead the Sousse massacre investigation, but also to become more involved in counter terror operations in North Africa. If the rumored links between Ajnad al-Khilafa forces in Tunisia and its agents/leadership in the UK prove factual, then the Cameron government will increase domestic counter terror efforts as well. This scenario can give teeth to the PM’s several counter ISIS proposals that have yet to fully take shape. The Sousse attack might also provide more impetus for the British government to develop its counter political warfare (counter Islamist radicalization) efforts touted since ISIS increased its threat profile in early 2015.

Sources and further reading:

Isil-linked terror group warned of Tunisia attack one month before,” The Telegraph, 2 July 2015.

There WAS a second gunman, say Tunisian security services – as police hunt two suspected accomplices in beach massacre,” Daily Mail, 29 June 2015.

Sunbed gunman was high on COCAINE: Laughing fanatic took photos of his victims during tourist killing spree – as new pictures emerge of unexploded bomb found next to his dead body,” Daily Mail, 1 July 2015.

Tunisia gunman Seifeddine Rezgui ‘made a 10-second phone call’ before opening fire on beach,” The Independent, 2 July 2015.

Tunisian hotel workers recall terror: ‘We opened our breasts against the bullets’,” The Guardian, 29 June 2015.

Copyright © Muir Analytics 2015