THE LATEST: 27 killed in attack on Tunisian beach resort

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TUNIS, Tunisia — A pair of gunmen killed at least 27 people on a Tunisian beach Friday in the latest attack on the north African country’s key tourism industry, the Interior Ministry said.

The gunmen opened fire on the beach in the resort town of Sousse between the Soviva and Imperial Marhaba hotels before security forces responded, killing one of the attackers, Interior Ministry spokesman Mohammed Ali Aroui said. The other attacker fled the scene, he said.

There were no details about the nationalities of the victims, but during the holy month of Ramadan Tunisia’s Muslim population is less likely to go the beach, so those there would have been predominantly foreign tourists.

“There was a mass exodus off the beach,” British tourist Gary Pine told Sky News, adding that his son saw someone who got shot.

He said guests at his hotel were first told to lock themselves in their rooms, and later to gather in the lobby.

In March, two gunmen attacked the national museum in Tunis killing at least 22 people, all but one tourists.

A group pledging allegiance to the radical Islamic State group claimed that attack and has promised more.

Since overthrowing its secular dictator in 2011, Tunisia has been plagued by terrorist attacks — though only recently have they targeted the vital tourism sector.

Previous updates

The latest news from an attack on a beach resort in Tunisia (all times local):

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2 p.m.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has confirmed that one of the two beachside hotels where tourists were shot in Tunisia, killing at least 27 people, is owned by a Spanish company.

Rajoy said from Brussels that the attacks Friday in Tunisia and in France were both acts of terror but did not provide more details.

Tunisian officials identified the hotel Rajoy referred to as the Hotel Riu Imperial Marhaba in the Port El Kantaoui neighborhood of Sousse. It is owned by Spain’s RIU Hotels & Resorts, which has more than 100 hotels in 19 countries.

The company’s media office said RIU’s board of directors was holding an emergency meeting following the attack.

The media office had no immediate comment on what happened or the nationalities of victims but said the company planned to issue a statement.

A file picture taken on October 31, 2013, shows tourists enjoying the beach near a four-star hotel in the resort town of Sousse, a popular tourist destination 140 kilometres (90 miles) south of the Tunisian capital. | AP

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1:45 p.m.

Tunisia’s Interior Ministry spokesman has told the state news agency that the toll in an attack on a beach resort has risen to 27.

Mohammed Ali Aroui described the victims as mostly tourists but did not give any nationalities. Local radio has said those killed Friday in the resort of Sousse were mostly German and British.

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Tunisian state television says the number of people killed in an attack on a tourist resort is now 19 after two gunmen opened fire on beachgoers.

There have been no details on the nationalities of those killed in the resourt of Sousse on Friday, but during the holy month of Ramadan, those on the beach tend to be tourists.

Interior Ministry spokesman Mohammed Ali Aroui said security forces intervened immediately and killed one of the attackers, the other fled the scene.

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1:20 p.m.

A British tourist close to the scene of a deadly attack on a Tunisian beach resort has described his experiences.

Gary Pine said he was on the beach and heard what “we thought was firecrackers going off” 100 yards away, followed by an explosion from the next hotel complex along.

“There was a mass exodus off the beach,” he told Sky News. He said his son said he had seen someone get shot on the beach.

He said guests at his hotel were first told to lock themselves in their rooms, and later to gather in the lobby.

Tunisia’s Interior Ministry says two gunmen opened fire on a beach in the coastal resort of Sousse Friday, killing at least seven people.

1 p.m.

Tunisia’s Interior Ministry says two gunmen opened fire on a beach near two hotels in the coastal resort city of Sousse, killing at least seven people.

Interior Ministry Spokesman Mohammed Ali Aroui said that one of the gunmen was killed and police are pursuing the other.

Sousse, some 150 kilometers from Tunis, is a popular resort for both Tunisians and Europeans.

Aroui said the death toll could rise.

Tunisia has been battered by attacks by militants, most recently in March when two Tunisians returning from Libya killed 22 people at the national museum.

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