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  1. ITV Report

Tunisia terror attack: UK 'warned of security risk' months before beach massacre

The security in the Tunisian resort of Sousse was criticised in a report produced for the UK government six-months before 38 people were killed in a terrorist attack there, an inquest has heard.

The January 2015 "recce" of around 30 hotels in the Mediterranean raised concerns about the beach entrance of the five-star Riu Imperial Marhaba where Islamist gunman Seifeddine Rezgui massacred tourists - including 30 Britons - the following June.

Rezgui was able to enter the upmarket hotel through the beach entrance after killing around 10 of his victims on the sand.

He was killed by police around an hour later.

Survivor Owen Richards leaves the Royal Courts of Justice with his mother Suzanne. Credit: PA

At the inquests into the Britons' deaths, Andrew Ritchie QC, who represents 20 victims' families, read extracts from the heavily redacted report at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

During the second day of the hearings he said: "Given that the attack on the Riadh Palms Hotel in October 2013 was launched from the beach, particular attention was paid to the beach access points.

"It (the report) said 'Despite some good security infrastructure around the hotels and resorts there seems to be little in the way of effective security to prevent or respond to an attack (from the beach)'."

Mr Ritchie told the inquest the government was aware that Islamic State-linked extremists had warned the terror group would target tourists in a video posted on YouTube in December 2014.

The inquests into the deaths also heard there were only four unarmed security guards on duty protecting the 631 mainly British hotel guests when the bloody attack happened.

A statement from Mehrez Saadi, the hotel's general manager at the time, revealed in response to a terror warning in the summer of 2014 the hotel had asked its gardeners to double up as security guards - but only for around a week.

The Sousse attack is the deadliest on British citizens since the London bombings in 2005. Credit: ITV News

The inquests have previously heard that official guidance for tourists said there was a "high risk of terrorism" in Tunisia at the time of the Sousse attack.

This had not been updated to the highest level of advising against all travel despite a previous terror attack on the Bardo Museum in the country's capital Tunis in March 2015 that killed 24 people, including 20 tourists.

One Briton who survived the Sousse attack said he had been assured it was "100% safe" to go to Tunisia by a travel agent when he booked, Mr Ritchie told the inquest.

Paul Thomson booked a stay in the resort after being told the Bardo attack in Tunis was a "one-off", the lawyer said.

Families said tourists were told it was safe to travel to Tunisia after the Bardo Museum attack. Credit: AP

Jane Marriott, a director of the Foreign Office's Middle East North Africa Directorate at the time of the attacks on the Bardo Museum, told the hearing that because, prior to the 2010 revolution, Tunisia had been a dictatorship, there was "little public desire for a more intrusive police presence".

She added: "This made it difficult for the authorities to be proactive with security."

The inquest was shown an extract from minutes of a meeting between UK embassy officials and tour operators in Tunisia shortly after the Bardo attack.

It said: "Following the incident, the knee-jerk reaction was to pull British tourists out of Tunisia.

"Embassy staff here in Tunisia lobbied hard to retain the tourists here in Tunisia but agreed to strengthen the text of the travel advice to reflect the severity of the incident."

Ms Marriott, who was not at the meeting, told the court: "The 'knee-jerk reaction' could be a reference to anybody. I hope not British officials."

The inquest is continuing.

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