الخميس , مايو 20 2021

UK ‘united in grief’ over Tunisia toll

People hold hands as they pray in a circle around bouquets of flowers laid as mementos on the beach of the Imperial Marhaba resort

Holidaymakers and locals have continued to pay their respects at the beach where the attack happened

Britain is “united in shock and grief”, the prime minister has said, as it emerged the British death toll in the Tunisian attack will rise above 30.

A total of 38 people were killed by a gunman with links to Islamic State extremists on a beach near Sousse.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, David Cameron urged a fightback, vowing the UK would show “unshakeable resolve” in dealing with extremism.

He stressed the need to reject those who condone the “extremist narrative”.

Tributes are continuing to be paid to the British victims, who include three generations of the same family, university graduates and a husband who died trying to shield his wife.

A number of British tourists remain missing, with their relatives continuing to face an agonising wait for news.

None of the dead have been officially identified but the names of some were confirmed by friends and family:

  • Carly Lovett, 24, a beauty blogger and photographer from Gainsborough in Lincolnshire, who had been on holiday with her fiance
  • Sue Davey and her partner Scott Chalkley, both in their 40s and from Tamworth, whose deaths were confirmed by their respective sons who had launched social media campaigns to find them
  • Adrian Evans, his father, 78-year-old Patrick Evans and nephew Joel Richards, 19, from Wednesbury, West Midlands. Joel’s brother Owen, 16, survived the attack

Carly Lovett

Sue Davey and Scott Chalkley

(L-R) Adrian Evans, Patrick Evans and Joel Richards were among the victims

  • Bruce Wilkinson, 72, a retired power station worker from Goole in East Riding, who was described as a “devoted husband, father and grandfather”
  • Lisa Burbidge, in her 60s, from Whickham, Gateshead, whose family said they had been left “with a massive hole in our hearts”
  • Claire Windass, 54, from Hull, who had been on the beach with her husband, who survived

Bruce Wilkinson

Lisa Burbidge

Claire Windass

  • Jim and Ann McQuire, from Cumbernauld, whose names were announced at their local church. Friends have said they still “can’t make sense of it”
  • Trudy Jones, 52, from Blackwood, in Caerphilly county, who was described as “popular and always smiling”
  • Stephen Mellor, 59, from Bodmin in Cornwall, who was killed trying to shield his wife Cheryl. She said the couple had huddled together and said “I love you” when the shooting started

Jim and Ann McQuire

Trudy Jones

Three Irish people were also killed, along with one Belgian and one German, and Tunisians are also thought to be among the dead. At least 36 people were injured.

The BBC understands the number of British victims – which currently stands at 15 – will rise to at least 30 once the formal identification process is complete.

But it is also understood the process is taking time because of stringent Tunisian regulations, including the local coroner’s requirement for medical or dental records.

The UK government also suggested officials were having difficulty identifying British victims as many were not carrying identification and because the injured were being moved between hospitals.

‘Full-spectrum response’

Writing in the Telegraph, Mr Cameron said that as the identities of the dead continued to emerge the full “horror” of events was becoming clear.

“But we will not be cowed,” he said. “To our shock and grief we must add another word: resolve. Unshakeable resolve. We will stand up for our way of life.

“So ours must be a full-spectrum response – a response at home and abroad; in the immediate aftermath and far into the future.”

He said the Islamic State group used social media as its “primary weapon” and police and security services must have “the tools they need to root out this poison”.

Mr Cameron – who will chair another meeting of the Cobra emergency committee on Monday morning – said it was also vital to confront the “poisonous ideology” behind attacks like that carried out in Tunisia.

“We must be stronger at standing up for our values – of peace, democracy, tolerance, freedom,” he said.

“We must be more intolerant of intolerance – rejecting anyone whose views condone the Islamist extremist narrative and create the conditions for it to flourish.”


BBC political correspondent Robin Brant

He doesn’t say it overtly but this is another message to Muslims here and abroad.

With the knowledge that nearly all the victims on that beach in Tunisia were British, David Cameron says: “We must be more intolerant of intolerance” when it comes to extremist views.

The prime minister calls for a rejection of “anyone whose views condone the Islamist extremist narrative”.

That is more direct than his words in a speech 10 days ago, when he criticised some British Muslims whom he said “quietly condoned” the actions of groups like Islamic State – but he’s not suggesting any new quick fixes or a change to policy.

There is politics though; he says social media online is the primary weapon of Islamic State and he reminds people of the controversial new interception powers the government wants to give the police and security services, saying they must have them to “root out this poison”.

Mr Cameron said the UK had a team of more than 50 consular staff, police officers and experts from the Red Cross on the ground in Sousse.

Detectives from the Met Police are among officers there helping with the investigation into the deadliest single terrorist attack on British people since 52 were killed in the London bombings of 2005.

Attacker ‘had help’

Some 3,500 British tourists have flown home from Tunisia since Friday’s attack.

Salman Sayed, Thomas Cook’s UK managing director, said anyone booked to travel there up until 12 July could cancel if they wished, and anyone due to travel before 31 October could amend their trip, including changing to another country.

Some holidaymakers have criticised tour operators’ response to the attack, but Mr Sayed told the BBC the company was doing its best in an “extraordinary” situation.

“We brought in additional staff immediately from Turkey and deployed them in our resorts. We have also deployed the maximum number of people we could over the weekend in our contact centres in the UK,” he said.

The Tunisian authorities have said they believe the gunman, 23-year-old Seifeddine Rezgui, had help in carrying out the attack.

They believe the suspected accomplices provided the Kalashnikov assault rifle to Rezgui and helped him get to the scene, interior ministry spokesman Mohamed Ali Aroui told AP.

He said the attacker’s father and three friends he lived with in Kairouan, where he studied, had been detained for questioning.

Holiday firms put on extra flights over the weekend for people wanting to return home. Flights to the country have also been cancelled.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Office has updated its travel advice to warn that further terrorist attacks in Tunisia are possible, and urged people to be vigilant.

The Tunisian government has brought in increased security measures, and the country’s UK ambassador told the BBC armed police would be deployed to protect tourist beaches.

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