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The New Arab

Tourists died because Tunisian police were 'cowards'

The inquest heard how one police officer fainted from 'terror' while facing the terrorist [Corbis]

Date of publication: 8 February, 2017

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A UK inquest into the deaths of 38 tourists in the summer of 2015 found that Tunisian armed police took thirty minutes to arrive, instead of the three minutes expected.

Tunisian security forces were accused of "cowardice" on Wednesday for failing to respond in time to a terrorist attack on mostly British tourists in 2015.

An armed police team took thirty minutes to arrive at the scene of the attack on a beach resort in Sousse, when it should have taken only three, a UK tribunal into the deaths found.

"[The head of the police operations room]... asked the tourist security team leader to go to the scene with his men but there was no response," Tunisian judge Lazhar Akremi said.

"He stated that the refusal to intervene to stop the terrorist attack was due to simple cowardice, when they could have prevented the loss of life."

The tribunal heard that one marine fainted at the scene out of "terror and panic" and another stripped out of his uniform in order to prevent detection.

Thirty-eight holiday makers, including 30 UK citizens, were gunned down at the Riu Imperial Marhaba hotel in Sousse on 26 June 2015 by a 23-year-old extremist.

The murderous rampage continued for forty minutes, as he was allowed to enter the hotel unimpeded by any police presence.

The inquest heard the shooter had targeted the hotel because it was known it was popular with foreign tourists and few Tunisians went there.

Samantha Leek QC, legal counsel to the inquest, said the tourists had "needlessly lost their lives" that day.

Islamic State later claimed responsibility for the attack, after they released a picture of the shooter sat next to two Kalashnikov rifles.

A post-mortem found that the murderer was high on cocaine at the time of the massacre, a common characteristic among many IS suicide killers.

A 2015 review of Tunisia's security forces found glaring problems because deposed President Ben Ali had gutted forces of any perceived strength.

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