PORT El KANTAOUI/ TUNISIA: Tunisia said it would arm tourism police and deploy hundreds of reinforcements as authorities moved to boost security after a jihadist gunned down 38 people at a seaside resort in an attack claimed by the Islamic State group.
Police on horseback and quad bikes patrolled the beach at Port El Kantaoui north of Sousse, where the worst jihadist attack in Tunisia's history took place on Friday. Today, interior ministers from Britain - the country hardest hit - France and Germany will visit the seaside Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel south of Tunis, where the killings took place.
The brutal attack by a lone gunman saw at least 15 Britons and one German among those killed, and dealt a heavy blow to the vital tourism industry. Tourists gathered around bouquets of flowers laid in the sand, one asking simply: "Why (did) they die?"
UK Prime Minister David Cameron called for a fightback against extremism in response to the mass shooting, as the BBC reported the number of British victims may rise to more than 30.
In Tunis, leaders of the North African country scrambled to find ways to bolster security. The tourism ministry confirmed plans to deploy 1,000 armed officers from July 1 to reinforce the tourism police, who will now also carry guns for the first time.
Armed officers will be deployed "inside and outside hotels", on beaches and at tourist and archaeological sites, the ministry said. Authorities have also announced plans to close 80 mosques accused of inciting extremism.
Friday's attack saw a Tunisian student disguised as a tourist pull out a Kalashnikov assault rifle hidden inside a beach umbrella and open fire on holidaymakers at the seaside hotel. The shooting wounded 39 people, six who were still in "serious condition" yesterday, the hotel's Spanish management said.
Malek, 16, said he saw the gunman unleash the killing spree. "I saw the guy put his parasol down in the sand, squatting just like anyone would to set it up. But suddenly he grabbed a Kalashnikov," he said.
"Everyone stood up to see what was happening, and then we saw him shoot at the tourists, with a big smile on his face." Witnesses say the attack lasted more than 40 minutes. Interior ministry spokesman Mohamed Ali Aroui refused to comment on allegations that police were slow to react. The police arrived "seven to eight minutes" after the shooting began, Aroui told AFP, adding that he is awaiting the results of an inquiry.