Tunisian Officers, Branded ‘Cowardly’ During Massacre, Face Charges

A June 2015 attack at a beachfront hotel in Sousse, Tunisia, left 38 people, mostly British tourists, dead.
Credit Kenzo Tribouillard/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

CAIRO — The gunman stalked through a Tunisian beach resort in Sousse, firing at will. He killed people on the sand, then moved into the grounds of a five-star hotel, picking off tourists by the pool, near the lobby and in the parking area.

The Tunisian security forces were conspicuous by their absence.

A marine guard who tried to confront the gunman fainted in panic and dropped his gun. When he came to, he fled to the beach and hid behind an umbrella.

A second security team, armed with assault rifles and wearing protective vests, was just around the corner. But instead of rushing to the shooting scene, the team’s members went for reinforcements. By the time they returned, 30 minutes had passed and 38 people were dead.

The Tunisian government acknowledged fault on Wednesday for the way its police force responded when a gunman linked to the Islamic State went on a rampage in Sousse in June 2015. A spokesman for the Tunisian Justice Ministry confirmed that at least six police officers had been referred to trial for criminal negligence for failing to help the victims, most of them British tourists. An additional 27 people were referred on similar charges, the ministry said.

The government publicized the indictments after a British inquest issued damning findings about the killings. The British report laid bare the failings of the Tunisian security forces in stark language.

Relatives of the dead wept openly as the judge read his statement in a London courtroom.

The British inquest offered some relief to the pain of grieving families seeking answers about how the gunman, Seifeddine Rezgui, could have slaughtered so many people at the Imperial Marhaba Hotel in Sousse before he was stopped.

Mr. Rezgui, a 24-year-old Tunisian radicalized by the Islamic State and trained in Libya, was armed with an AK-47 rifle, three grenades and fireworks when an unidentified accomplice dropped him off near the hotel. His rampage lasted at least 22 minutes before he was shot dead by members of the Tunisian National Guard.

Relatives of some of the Sousse victims say the travelers should have been warned about the danger of attacks on tourists and have said they will sue tour operators who booked the beach vacations.