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Tunisia holds vigil for horrific beach massacre victims (PHOTOS)

Tunisia holds vigil for horrific beach massacre victims (PHOTOS)
Hundreds of Tunisians have held a vigil for the victims of a brutal terrorist attack on the beach resort of Sousse, condemning the international extremism which claimed at least 39 lives on Friday, mostly tourists.

The locals lit candles outside, held flags and chanted slogans near the hotel where the gunman rampaged after the shooting spree on the beach.

A boy holds a Tunisian flag as he stands near bouquets of flowers laid at the beachside of the Imperiale Marhabada hotel, which was attacked by a gunman in Sousse, Tunisia, June 27, 2015 (Reuters / Zohra Bensemra)

The death toll from the Friday beach massacre in Tunisia rose to 39 after a Belgian tourist died on Saturday morning. Tunisia’s health ministry says that it has identified the bodies of 17 people so far.

Another 39 people were wounded when the gunmen attacked Tunisian Sousse, the health ministry said, adding that 21 patients have already left medical facilities after receiving treatment. Two of the wounded remain in a critical condition, while 18 are being kept under observation, a spokesperson, Chokri Nafi told The Associated Press.

Women hold candles during a protest to condemn an attack by a gunman at the beach of the Imperial Marhabada hotel in Sousse, Tunisia, June 27, 2015 (Reuters / Zohra Bensemra)

According to the country’s Russian Embassy, the injured Russian national was a woman who escaped the massacre with light injuries to her shoulder. She is in a stable condition. However there have also been unconfirmed reports that a Russian national might be among the dead. In light of the attack, Russian parliamentarians are urging the Foreign Ministry to initiate an emergency session of the UN Security Council.

At the same time, Germany confirmed that one of its nationals has been killed and another wounded in the attack, while the Belgian Foreign Ministry confirmed the death of a woman. Ireland believes that in total three Irish citizens are among the dead, with one already having been identified.

The UK announced that at least 15 of its citizens were killed in Friday’s gun assault warning that the number might rise. British police have sent forensic experts to help identify victims and aid with the investigation.

READ MORE: Fatal Friday: Scores dead after France, Tunisia & Kuwait hit by terrorist attacks

The shooter in Friday’s attack has been identified by Tunisia’s Prime Minister Habib Essid as Seifeddine Rezgui. Rezgui was gunned down by Tunisian police after the assailant pulled a gun hidden inside a parasol and opened fire on tourists on the sand and by a pool.

While Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) claimed responsibility for the attack, the investigation has so far revealed that Rezgui never traveled abroad. Tunisian Secretary of State for Security Rafik Chelly said the gunman was a student previously unknown to the authorities and was not on any watch list of potential militants. One source in the investigation told Reuters that Rezgui could have been radicalized over the last six months by Islamist militant recruiters.

“He entered by the beach, dressed like someone who was going to swim, and he had a beach umbrella with his gun in it,” Chelly said according to AFP.

Meanwhile a video of the horrific beach massacre was released on YouTube by a local radio station showing the police shootout and people running away in a panic.

The shocking aftermath of the bloodbath sent people rushing to the airports to immediately return home, with Belgian airline Jetairfly completely canceling their route to the African country. More than 3,000 foreign tourists left the country on Saturday including around 2,200 British and nearly 600 Belgians, according to the Sousse tourism commissioner. Most of EU tour operators are canceling their vacation packages to Tunisia next week, which will severely damage the heavily tourist-dependent economy.

To reassure residents and visitors of their safety, Prime Minister Essid said new anti-terrorism measures would take effect from July 1, which would see reserve troops deployed to reinforce security at “sensitive sites ... and places that could be targets of terrorist attacks.” The government is also closing down 80 mosques suspected of promulgating extremism.

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