NEW: Tunisians turn out in a show of unity outside the hotel
Tunisian authorities say of 38 people killed, most were Europeans
Tunisia identifies the gunman as a 24-year-old from a nearby region
Tourists fled a Tunisian seaside resort on Saturday, a day after an attack killed at least 38 people and wounded at least 39 others.
A stream of buses quietly ferried out thousands of guests who abruptly ended their beach holidays in the coastal city of Sousse.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack that started on the beach outside the Hotel Riu Imperial Marhaba, but it wasn’t clear if the Islamist group had any direct role in it.
ISIS posted a photo of the alleged attacker, whom Tunisian authorities identified as 24-year-old Saif Al-Deen Al Rezgui from the town of Gaafour, about 100 miles northeast of Sousse.
Al Rezgui’s uncle and neighbors identified him as the man in the ISIS photo.
His uncle told CNN that Al Rezgui visited his hometown and parents’ home Thursday, the day before the attack.
Friday evening, Al Rezgui’s mother and father were taken from their home to Tunis as part of the investigation, the uncle said.
Al Rezgui lived in Gaafour until 2011 and later moved to the nearby region of Kairouan to go to college. Police described him as a normal young man who participated in a music group while he lived in Gaafour.
“He used to love soccer,” one neighbor said. “Always him and his father, playing in front of the house.”
Said another, “He couldn’t have done it. It’s like some radicals kidnapped his mind.”
Al Rezui was not known to have problems in Gaafour and was seen as an introvert who came from a poor family, police said. They added that his younger brother died in 2010 when struck by lightning, a death they believe may have affected Al Rezgui.
Initial reports Friday about the attack suggested there had been three gunmen, but a Tunisian Interior Ministry spokesman later said they were aware of only one and that he had been killed.
The spokesman, Mohammed Ali Aroui, told CNN on Saturday that the gunman specialized in electronics in pursuing his masters degree and didn’t have any known relationship with a terror group
He worked in the past for an entertainment organization involved in tourism, which may explain how he knew the hotel layout, Aroui said. It is not yet clear what his current job was, if he had one, the spokesman added.
His first passport was issued in 2013 and there was no sign of foreign travel on it, he said.
Two U.S. officials said they believe the attack may have been inspired by ISIS, though not directed by the terrorist group.
Saturday night, a large crowd of Tunisians turned out at the hotel in a display of unity after the attacks. They chanted and sang, waved the red and white Tunisian flag, and lit candles at the spot where the dozens of victims had been shot the day before.
It started on the beach
The attack lasted about five minutes, starting on the beach, continuing at the pool and in the hotel lobby, and ending when the gunman was killed in the hotel’s parking lot, Aroui said.
Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid said the gunman hid an AK-47 machine gun under an umbrella to smuggle it onto the beach, which overlooks the Mediterranean Sea.
British tourist Ellie Makin watched him carry it.