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Dozens killed in attack on Tunisian beach resort

Multiple gunmen attacked a popular tourist destination in Tunisia, killing dozens of people; IS claims responsibility
A Tunisian soldier stands guard in front of the Imperial hotel in the resort town of Sousse, a popular tourist destination 140 kilometres (90 miles) south of the Tunisian capital, on 26 June 2015, following a shooting attack (AFP)

Some 39 people have been reported killed by multiple gunmen at a luxury tourist hotel in the Tunisian town of Sousse, the interior ministry said.

The five-star hotel, the Imperial Marhaba, was attacked before security forces arrived at the scene, who then exchanged fire with the gunmen.

According to witnesses, there were three gunmen armed with Kalashnikovs who attacked the beach resort. One of the gunmen has been arrested.

The spokesperson for the interior ministry Mohamed Ali Aroui referred to only one gunman, and stated that he was killed.

"It was a terrorist attack against the Marhaba hotel," Aroui said. "The assailant was killed."

The death toll rose to 38 late Friday, the health ministry said.

The Islamic State (IS) group later claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement released on Twitter.

IS identified the gunman as Abu Yahya al-Qayrawani, saying he was a "solider of the caliphate".

The statement said the victims of the attack were "subjects of states that make up the crusader alliance fighting the state of the caliphate".

The attack targeted "dens [of...] fornication, vice and apostasy in the city of Sousse" and was carried out "despite [security] measures strengthened around these dens on Kantaoui beach," it added.

Sousse is regarded as one of Tunisia’s popular beach resorts, visited by tourists from Europe and neighbouring countries.

AFP reported that the majority of the victims were British.

"The majority are British," Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid told a news conference. "After come the Germans, then the Belgians and then other nationalities," he said, adding that there were French among the dead.

Tunisia has been on high alert since gunmen affiliated with IS attacked the Bardo museum in the capital of Tunis in March, killing 21 foreign tourists.

The Tunisian president Beji Caid Essebsi and his prime minister Habib Essid visited the attack scene in the aftermath.

The shooting is the latest blow to Tunisia's tourism sector, which the economy heavily depends on.

The attack follows other violent acts in the region on Friday, including a suicide bomb attack on a mosque in Kuwait, which claimed the lives of at least 15 people.

Witnesses described scenes of panic and confusion after the shooting at a hotel in the district of Sousse, about 140 kilometres (87 miles) south of Tunis.

The shooting comes just months after a March attack on the Bardo National Museum in Tunis killed 21 foreign tourists and a policeman.

In October 2013, a suicide bomber blew himself up in a botched attack on a beach in Sousse while security forces foiled another planned attack nearby.

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