''All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing'' - Edmund Burke


S I E R R A  H E R A L D

Vol XI No 8

The tendency sometimes to protect perpetrators for the sake of peace...doesn't help society. Impunity should not be allowed to stand. - Kofi Annan on Waki report

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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 buildings.

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 their lives".

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." The thirty UK victims murdered in Tunisia. All the bodies have now been flown home.

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 with Algeria.

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 as student 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 Sousse attack. Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi - he admits something went wrong.

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 weeks.

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 country.

May the souls of the dead rest in perfect peace.



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