Published on Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Tunisia massacre: TUI criticised over hotel security

TUI and the Tunisian police have been heavily criticised by an investigation into the deaths of holidaymakers in the terror attack at a beach resort in Sousse in June 2015.

Ahead of next week's inquests into the deaths of the 30 British victims, who were all TUI customers, the Panorama programme Terror on the Beach: How Did it Happen? said more could have been done to protect tourists' lives and the police took too long to get there, including going to the wrong hotel initially.

Tunisian authorities concluded the police had no plan to counter a terror attack, weren't professional, didn't do their duty and showed a chaotic and slow response.

The programme was also highly critical of TUI. Holidaymakers caught up in the attack told Panorama they had expressed concerns before travelling but were told they had nothing to worry about.

Panorama spoke to families who said they had contacted Thomson on more than one occasion for reassurance before they travelled. They were concerned after the terror attack at the Bardo National Museum, Tunis, in which 20 tourists died, including one British woman.

The Bardo attack happened in March 2015, three months before the Sousse attack.

The holidaymakers told the programme they were reassured their holiday would be safe and that if they cancelled they would not get a refund.

The programme also revealed there had been an unsuccessful attack at a neighbouring hotel a month before the Imperial attack. On that occasion the hotel's security had prevented the attack happening.

Demetrius Danas, solicitor at law firm Irwin Mitchell, which is representing some of the families, said: "Some families have lost two or more members. They are having therapy for psychological conditions, some have financial losses - they lost their main breadwinner and have money worries. It's had a devastating impact on all concerned."

Panorama said that, although the Tunisian authorities made much of the arrests of the cell behind the Bardo terrorists a week after it happened, many were 'released on the quiet' two months after the Sousse attack.

There are close links between the two attacks and Panorama named the ringleader as Chamseddine al-Sandi, who is believed to be on the run.

Responding to the criticism, TUI released the following statement: "TUI UK is taking a full and active part in the Inquests into the deaths of the 30 British nationals killed during the terrorist attack in Sousse, Tunisia in June 2015.

"Like others, we want to understand the specific circumstances that led to this atrocity. We are cooperating fully with the Coroner and will continue to do so, in order to help ensure that the tragic deaths of those killed can be thoroughly investigated, the relevant facts determined and any lessons learned.

"With the Inquests about to be heard, we consider that it would be inappropriate for us to comment further, or to address the specific points raised by the BBC, some of which will be the subject of evidence. However, we do not accept the accuracy of many of the statements or the criticisms made during the course of interim hearings."

The Foreign Office also said it would not comment on specifics before the inquest.

Meanwhile, the owner of the Hotel Imperial Marhaba, where some of the tourists were killed, told Panorama she wants to re-open.

Zohra Driss claimed lessons had been learned since the attack, when a lone gunman opened fire on holidaymakers sunbathing on the beach in front of the Imperial, then hunted people down in the hotel corridors.

She told Panorama reporter Jane Corbin: "We are extremely vigilant now in Tunisia, on the beaches, the roads, the airports, everywhere.

"So please remove this travel ban because it is useless. To me it's just punishing Tunisia."

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