Attack wasn't Tunisia's fault, say tourists who are staying

2015-06-30 20:29
Tunisians stand on the beach of the Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel in Port el Kantaoui, on the outskirts of Sousse south of the capital Tunis, in the aftermath of a shooting attack on the beach resort claimed by the Islamic State group. (AFP)

Tunisians stand on the beach of the Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel in Port el Kantaoui, on the outskirts of Sousse south of the capital Tunis, in the aftermath of a shooting attack on the beach resort claimed by the Islamic State group. (AFP)

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Port el Kantaoui - Despite many tourists taking the first flights home after a gunman's killing spree at a popular Tunisian beach resort, others decided to stay, saying the massacre was not the country's fault.

Some who elected to remain had been close by when jihadist Seifeddine Rezgui opened fire on Friday, killing 38 holidaymakers in a massacre that shocked the world.

Visible signs of the horror on the beach have been removed. The beach deckchairs at the Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel are again spotless after the worst jihadist attack in Tunisian history.

Only bouquets of flowers laid on the sand in honour of the victims are a reminder of the sudden violence that hit the holiday hotel, and some blooms are now wilting in the sun.

The murders sparked an exodus of travellers, but others are again sunbathing or strolling along Port El Kantaoui beach in their swimsuits.

Witnesses said a smiling Rezgui pulled a Kalashnikov assault rifle he had concealed under a furled beach umbrella and deliberately singled out tourists as he opened fire on Friday.

'It's not the country that has done this'

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack which ended with Rezgui himself killed in a hail of police bullets.

Caroline, who was on the other side of the hotel when the gunman strolled onto the sand, said she had decided to see the rest of her holiday through, unlike thousands of fellow Britons.

"It's not the country that has done this. It's an act of fanaticism, of cowardice, it's not Tunisia," she told AFP after placing a rose on a makeshift memorial by the sea.

"It's those crazy individuals that are responsible, not the Tunisian people."

While admitting she was hesitant at first, Caroline said she had not wanted to wait at the airport to be flown home.

"But also I don't think you should run," she said, adding that she was thankful she did not actually witness any killings.

"We've been made to feel safe - everyone is looking after us."

'We're not going to leave because of these idiots' 

German tourists Peter and Ingrid Krause also decided to stay.

While their hotel is several hundred metres from the Imperial, they had been walking along the shore when the attack unfolded.

"We saw people arrive in panic, saying there had been an attack," Peter said, adding that most guests at their hotel have left since Friday.

"But we decided to stay anyway. We weren't going to leave because of these idiots."

The French travel agency union has reported a record 80% cancellation rate on package holidays to Tunisia since the attack, however.

At Monastir airport some 30km from Port El Kantaoui, where many flights from France land, tour representatives waited for holidaymakers who have refused to change their minds.

Of 32 expected arrivals on one flight, only nine appeared.

"We hesitated. But we had already paid," Patrick Ribault said.

Romain, 21, said he had no second thoughts.

"Our tour company offered us another destination, for instance a hotel in Corsica," he said.

"But we refused. We said we wanted to come anyway, because it's a question of habit.

"We always come here. I love the place, and we didn't want to change for anything in the world. The attack wasn't going to give us cold feet."

'We need to help our Tunisian friends'

His grandmother Christiane agreed.

"I think we need to help our Tunisian friends," she said.

"The attack could have happened in Paris, Lille or Marseille, but they need this tourism, and we hope it will help them a little even though there are just three of us."

By the pool, the music is playing again after the British, French, German and Tunisian interior ministers laid flowers at the attack site on Monday.

On the beach, a Tunisian hotel employee encourages tourists exercising in the shallows, almost as if nothing had happened. Almost.

Read more on:    isis  |  tunisia

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