Anguish, defiance in the UK after attacks
LONDON - The United Kingdom reacted with shock and defiance to the June 26th terrorist attack in Tunisia, in which 30 British tourists were killed by an Islamic State (ISIS) gunman, the largest loss of British life to terrorism since the 7/7 bombings of the London underground in 2005.
British Prime Minister David Cameron warned that Islamic extremists “have declared war on Britain and they are attacking our people at home and overseas”.
In the wake of the attack, UK tour operators cancelled holidays to Tunisia and sent extra aeroplanes to the North African country to pick up tourists seeking to leave. Travel agents Thomson and First Choice cancelled all flights to Tunisia while the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office warned that more terrorist attacks in Tunisia were possible.
Local reports confirmed that British and Western holidaymakers in Sousse rushed to the nearby Enfidha airport the day after the attack.
Saloua Kadria, Sousse’s tourism commissioner, said more than 3,000 foreign tourists, including approximately 2,200 Britons, left the town within 24 hours after the attack. The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) said approximately 20,000 Britons were on holiday in Tunisia at the time.
Some tourists defiantly remained in Sousse, organising a candlelight vigil on the beach on June 27th to honour the victims.
Holidaymakers and locals left tributes, including flowers and notes, at the scene of the attack. One note, written in German and English, asked simply: “Why?” Others read: “We are sorry” and “We will never forget you.”
Craig Reed, 42, from Wales, said he and his family had no intention of cutting their holiday short. “It’s just one idiot trying to wreck everything for the Tunisians,” he told the Guardian newspaper.
James and Adele Hope Urwin also said they would stay and complete their holiday, with James Urwin saying he had been travelling through central London during the 7/7 attacks and that had not stopped him from returning to the city.
Survivors of the massacre praised the actions of Sousse locals, including hotel workers who reportedly formed a human shield to protect tourists. One UK tourist, John Yeoman, on holiday with his wife at a nearby resort, tweeted that staff members had “saved many lives”.
In comments to the Independent, Yeoman’s wife said another couple had told her the hotel staff were yelling, “You’ll have to get past us and we’re Muslim.” to the gunman. The bravery of the Tunisian hotel staff “makes you have a little more faith in humanity”, she said.