Militant in Tunisian attack worked in tourism industry

Tunisian Seifeddine Rezgui, believed to be the gunman who killed 38 people in the holiday resort of Sousse.
Tunisian Seifeddine Rezgui, believed to be the gunman who killed 38 people in the holiday resort of Sousse.PHOTO: EPA

TUNIS • The Tunisian militant behind last month's massacre of foreigners at a seaside resort had previously worked in the tourism sector, according to officials, as his mother insisted the young man was "brainwashed".

In an interview on Sunday, Prime Minister Habib Essid revealed more details about 23-year-old Seifeddine Rezgui, who gunned down 38 foreign tourists in the June 26 attack.

"We know he was a member of a dance club and was familiar with the tourism sector, having worked in it as an events organiser," Mr Essid told the French-language newspaper La Presse.

Tourists fled in horror as Rezgui pulled an assault rifle from inside a furled beach umbrella and went on a shooting spree outside a five-star hotel.

The attack at Port El Kantaoui, north of Sousse, killed 30 Britons, three Irish nationals, two Germans, one Belgian, one Portuguese and a Russian.

Rezgui was shot dead by the police during the attack.

Both the authorities and relatives later described him as having been an apparently normal young man who had been keen on breakdancing.

His mother, Ms Radhia Manai, 49, told Britain's Sunday Times her son must have been "brainwashed" by extremists as, previously, he would not have hurt a mouse. "When they told me my son had killed all these people, I said no, it's impossible," she said.

"I can't believe it. Once there was a mouse in the house and I asked Seifeddine to kill it and he refused, saying, 'I can't kill anything'." She said he was "a victim like all the others".

A resident near where his parents live in the town of Gaafour had previously said that Rezgui worked "in tourism in the area of Kantaoui", where the attack is thought to have been planned.

The attack on the beach and around the swimming pools of the Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel was claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group.

The authorities have admitted that the transformation of an apparently normal young man caused amazement in Tunisia.

Mr Essid pledged to La Presse "substantive work... on culture and education", in addition to economic reforms.

"We now know what causes individuals to become involved in extremism, be it financial difficulties or religious ideology," he said. "We are also studying ways of 'deradicalising' our young people who return from Syria."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 07, 2015, with the headline 'Militant in Tunisian attack worked in tourism industry'. Print Edition | Subscribe