Friday July 3, 2015
- Flags fly at half mast and a minute's silence for the thirty
UK citizens who were murdered by a gunman in Tunisia. A state of
emergency is declared as Tunisians step up security to avert any
further blow to its tourism industry.
The United Kingdom government has
held ceremonies to honour the memory of thirty UK citizens who
were murdered by a gunman on Monday of this week in what has
been described as a random, mindless and brutal killing of
unarmed and unprotected civilians in the tourist resort of
Sousse. The international broadcaster,
the BBC reports -
"A minute's silence has been
held across the UK to remember the 38 people - including 30
Britons - killed in the Tunisia beach attack a week ago. The
Queen and Prime Minister David Cameron joined the silence, along
with the families of the dead. Tourists and Tunisians gathered
at the scene of the attack in Sousse, where they linked arms to
observe the pause.
Inquests into the deaths of the
Britons are under way, while the bodies of more victims have
arrived in the UK. At noon the nation fell silent, with
businesses, sporting events and places of worship pausing to
mark the moment the killings took place. Tears were shed as
hundreds of employees observed the silence at the head office of
the travel company whose customers made up the toll of British
dead, while flags were flown at half mast on many official
In Tunisia itself, a ceremony
held at the beach-side scene of the killings was attended by
Tunisians, tourists and dignitaries - including Tunisian Prime
Minister Habib Essid. Mr Essid has told the BBC the slow
response of police to the attack was a major problem. He also
said he was deeply sorry for the killings.
The British ambassador to
Tunisia, Hamish Cowell, laid a wreath on the beach. He said it
was "very important to be here in Sousse one week after this
appalling, cowardly attack, to remember all those who have lost
The silence was also observed
at Wimbledon, where the start of play was delayed The silence
was also observed at the headquarters of the TUI Group travel
company in Luton, which owns Thomson and First Choice. All 30
Britons killed were its customers. Of the 1,800 people on site,
about 1,600 stood outside to pay their respects.
The BBC's Ben Geoghegan said
some of those gathered in the company's car park wore black
ties, while some dabbed away tears. Passengers and crews on
Thomson Airways flights and in TUI offices around the world also
fell silent to remember the dead.
A number of mosques observed
the silence, including at Birmingham's Central Mosque where more
than 6,000 people took part. Chairman Mohammad Afzal said: "In
the Quran it says killing an individual is like killing the
whole of humanity. These innocent holidaymakers have committed
no sin, had done nothing wrong and their lives were as precious
as any other."
Qari Asim, an imam in Leeds,
said his mosque wanted to show solidarity with the victims'
families, as well as paying "our tribute to the survivors, whose
courage and determination still continues to inspire us".
Police officers across the
country took part in the silence, while at Wimbledon matches
started late to allow the minute's quiet to be observed. And the
silence was also marked at Silverstone, which is hosting the
British Grand Prix on Sunday, led by drivers and teams and also
observed by the crowds in the grandstands.
Meanwhile the Tunisian
authorities have been taking a long hard look at what could have
gone wrong that would have allowed a lone gunman to go on such a
murderous rampage for so long after the alarm was raised.
Several top security officials are expected to lose their jobs
as well as officials who should have put in place the necessary
measures given the fact that the country has been battling
insurgents and extremists in the mountains and border regions
In the wake of the Tunisia
government's decision to declare a state of emergency the
BBC reports - "Tunisian
President Beji Caid Essebsi said in a national address that
"exceptional measures" were needed. "In order to face up to this
scourge we need to be prepared. We need to have enough troops,
proper training and material means - we are in desperate need of
material means," he said, appealing for international
counter-terrorism support and co-operation. The state of
emergency will be in place for a renewable period of 30 days.
An official from the prime
minister's office said several officials had been sacked in the
wake of the attack, including the governor of Sousse. "Just as
there have been security failures, there have also been
political failures," Dhafer Neji told AFP. Security forces were
criticised for not responding more quickly to the attack on 26
June in Sousse, when a gunman opened fire on tourists on a beach
and in a hotel before being shot dead by police.
The gunman has been identified
Seifeddine Rezgui, who
authorities say had trained in Libya. Tunisian Prime Minister
Habib Essid conceded in a BBC interview on Friday that the slow
response of the police was a key problem. He said Rezgui had
probably trained with the Ansar al-Sharia group, though Islamic
State (IS) earlier said it was behind the attack. Eight people
have been arrested on suspicion of collaborating with Rezgui,
and the government says it has uncovered the network behind the
Authorities have also pledged
to close some 80 mosques that were operating outside government
control and accused of spreading extremism.
Analysts say Tunisia has been
put at risk by the chaotic situation in neighbouring Libya, and
by the danger posed by Tunisians who have gone to fight in Syria
and Iraq returning home. In his speech on Saturday, Mr Essebsi
spoke in general terms about the threat posed by Libya.
He also spoke at length about
the economic and social challenges facing the country, including
high unemployment and poverty in the country's interior.
Tunisian security forces had responded to security challenges
"gradually", he said, "because we did not have the culture of
terrorism in Tunisia".
The last time Tunisia declared
a state of emergency was in 2011, in the uprising which
overthrew President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. It was lifted in
March 2014. Officials are expected to pass a counter-terrorism
bill that has been in parliament since early 2014 in the coming
The Sousse attack represented
the second blow in three months to Tunisia's tourism industry,
an important sector for the country.
In March, two gunmen killed 22
people at the renowned Bardo museum in Tunisia's capital, Tunis.
We join others in extending condolences
to the bereaved as well as those wounded in the mindless attack
on unarmed, unprotected and innocent civilians whose only crime
was that they dared to enjoy their holidays in another beautiful
May the souls of the dead rest in