26 June 2015, Sousse, Tunisia

27 June, 2015 Hotel Attacks

Note: Muir updated this briefing in a few places later when more accurate information became available. The datapoints initially reported by the press and eyewitnesses are still in the article, however, and demonstrate that even detailed reporting from people who were there during an attack can, on occasion, be wrong.)

On 26 June, a terrorist raided a hotel along a beach in Sousse, Tunisia. Exact details of the terrorist’s tactics, the hotel struck, and the numbers of killed and wounded are tenuous, but as of 1700 Eastern Standard Time (US), the situation is this:

At approximately 12:00 pm Tunisia time, a single terrorist (witnesses originally said two terrorists) arrived by van near the Hotel Riu Imperial Marhaba and the Soviva Resort. He walked to the beach, drew an AK-47 from an umbrella, and began shooting beachgoers and sunbathers. (Original reporting said he arrived by Jet Ski and/or boat, so said the director of the Royal Kenz Hotel.)

So far, there has been no reporting on shootings at the Soviva Resort itself. It appears the violence there likely happened at the Soviva’s beachfront as it sits next to (north of) the Imperial Marhaba.

The owner of the Imperial Marhaba, Zohra Driss, said in the Daily Mail that the gunman then made his way to the hotel’s swimming pool and began shooting patrons there. (Later reporting said he also threw grenades or like explosive devices around the hotel.)

Afterward, the gunman exited the hotel to a nearby street where security forces shot and killed him. (Early reporting indicated that one attacker was killed and the other was apparently arrested.)

The Tunis Times reports that the attackers were ISIS affiliated. Reuters says ISIS claimed responsibility with the following tweet: “Our brother, the soldier of the Caliphate, Abu Yihya al-Kairouni, reached his target the Imperial hotel despite the security measures.”

ISIS called the hotel a “bordel” (whorehouse) and the victims “infidels.”

The casualty count to date is 37 killed and 36 wounded. (Ultimately, the casualty count was 39 killed and 39 wounded, although these figures changed from time to time according to different sources.) Tunisians, British, Irish, German, and Belgian citizens were reportedly among the victims, The Guardian and other sources said.

There is speculation the attacker struck during Ramadan to lessen the chances of killing Tunisians.

This hotel attacked happened close to the same time that a suicide bomber struck a Shia mosque in Kuwait (27 killed, 227 wounded) and a frenzied attacker descended on a factory in France. In the latter case, in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier (near Lyon), a terrorist beheaded a factory manager, hung his head and Islamist jihadist flags on the factory fence, and then rammed a vehicle into a building that triggered an explosion.

Muir Analytics wrote a piece on hotel security in Tunisia in May 2015 noting rising foreign hotel investment in the country despite signs of trouble by ISIS and like groups – notably the 18 March attack on the Bardo Museum in Tunis that killed 21 and wounded at least 50. At the time of publication, the Tunisian government said that protecting hotels and resorts was a key priority as it accounted for a significant amount of national GDP revenues.

Ultimately, this case clearly demonstrates that in areas targeted by ISIS and like groups that government security forces and hotel security officials must inrease coordination and joint physical security to better protect patrons, staff, and property. In countries such as Tunisia, a robust, countrywide hotel and resort security plan is imperative.

Sources and further reading:

AK47 raised, Tunisian terrorist roams the streets looking for more victims after slaughtering 37 people – including five British tourists – before police shot him dead,” Daily Mail, 26 June 2015.

Deadly attack on Tunisia tourist hotel in Sousse resort,” The Guardian, 26 June 2015.

Breaking: El Kantaoui scene of a shootout,” The Tunis Times, 26 June 2015.

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