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Tunisians are apologetic over Islamist beach murders

03 July 2015


Remembrance: Sousse residents place flowers on the beach

Remembrance: Sousse residents place flowers on the beach

FAMILIES have been mourning for 38 tourists, mostly from Britain, murdered by an Islamist terrorist at a resort in Tunisia.

Thirty of the victims of the attack on the Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel, near Sousse, last Friday are thought to have been British. The attacker, Seifeddine Rezgui, a 23-year-old Tunisian student, was shot dead by police at the scene.

The Archbishop of Canterbury issued a statement shortly afterwards: "All of us must be full of grief at the attacks in Tunisia, France and Kuwait. They are intended not only to destroy but to divide. . .

"Facing such a global and long-term menace, we are called to reaffirm our solidarity with each other, and affirm the great treasures of freedom, in religion and so many other ways."

The Archbishop of York also expressed his condolences. "To the bereaved and to those who were wounded in the attack - you are in the thoughts and prayers of many of us," he said.

He explained how he and the Archbishop in Egypt, Dr Mouneer Anis, had spent eight days fasting and praying, in English and Arabic, for peace at York Minster last year. "I need, we need, to commit ourselves to prayer and fasting. For the evil we face cannot be cast out except by prayer and fasting."

The Area Bishop of North Africa, and Rector of St George's, in the capital Tunis, the Rt Revd Bill Musk, visited survivors of the attack in intensive care at hospital. He said that they were still deeply in shock.

"It's very humbling - you just go to listen," he said. "Everyone wants us to pray with them. When you have come very close to dying, or someone you love has, we are all vulnerable."

The overwhelming response from Tunisians has been one of shame, Bishop Musk said. One of the nurses at the bedside of a British victim of the shooting was continually apologising and explaining how Mr Rezgui did not represent true Islam, he said.

The attack was also a disaster for Tunisia, as it would lose billions of pounds if tourists decided to stay away.

"It will definitely damage the economy," Bishop Musk said. "You think of those waiters in the hotels in Sousse. Each one of those wage packets is supporting their extended family of up to ten people."

In a telegram sent to Tunisia, Pope Francis condemned the "violence which causes so much suffering" and prayed that God would bring peace to the region.

This was the second attack on tourists in Tunisia this year. Twenty-one people, including one woman from Shropshire, were shot dead by terrorists at a museum in Tunis in March (News, 27 March).

That attack was claimed by the Islamic State group (IS), who also took responsibility for the massacre at Sousse.

David Cameron has called for a minute's silence at noon today to commemorate the victims. Among those taking part will be the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. After ringing once at midday, the shrine's bell will be tolled 38 times - once for each of those killed at the hotel in Tunisia.

In Nottinghamshire, at least ten graves in the Muslim section of a cemetery have been damaged, in what the Nottingham City Council believes is a hate crime.

Name plaques and decorative lights were broken at High Wood cemetery in Bulwell, leading police to increase patrols at the site. Chief Superintendent Mark Holland, of Nottinghamshire Police, said that his officers had been in liaison with the Muslim community after the attack in Sousse.

Three of the people shot dead at the hotel lived in the diocese of Meath & Kildare in Ireland. The Bishop, the Most Revd Patricia Storey, said that the whole diocese was in shock at the news.

"We feel this loss all the more keenly as it appears some of the victims are from our own locality. Our thoughts and prayers are with those, especially our neighbours, who have been plunged into such pain and distress by this cruel attack on human life," she said.


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