Britain deploys counterterrorism police to investigate Tunisian attack

by Onize Ohikere
Posted 6/30/15, 04:15 pm

Britain has deployed about 600 counterterrorism police to help investigate Friday’s attack at the Imperial Marhaba Hotel in the Tunisian beach resort town of Sousse. 

A lone gunman killed 38 tourists, 18 of whom were British. Tunisian officials said the number of British deaths could rise as high as 30, making it the worst terrorist attack on British civilians since the London bombings on July 7, 2005.

British Home Secretary Theresa May will go to Tunisia soon for talks on extremist threats.

“Ours must be a full-spectrum response—a response at home and abroad, in the immediate aftermath and far into the future,” said Prime Minister David Cameron in a written statement.

Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid responded to the attack by placing armed guards at tourist sites and closing 80 unregulated mosques believed to preach radicalized doctrines. The government also is considering closing down organizations and political parties promoting ideas opposed to the country’s constitution.

For the past year, the Tunisian government has worked on tightening its counterterrorism laws. It feared attacks in the wake of the Islamic State’s call to all Muslims for a Jihad during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan that began June 17.

But Friday’s attacks came before the new measure could become law. First proposed in January 2014, the counterterrorism bill raised concerns of undermined human rights. According to Human Rights Watch, the law is expected to permit extended detention, weaken due process for people charged with terrorism offenses, and allow for the death penalty.

“There’s a widespread recognition of the tension of wanting to deal with a serious security problem and not wanting the policy to undermine the hard-fought freedom they gained,” said The Washington Institute’s policy expert, Sarah Feuer.

About 3,000 Tunisian citizens have reportedly joined extremist groups in Syria, Iraq, and Libya. At least 500 have returned home.

Mohammed Ennaceur, president of Tunisia’s parliament, announced the counterterrorism law would be passed before the country’s Republic day on July 25.

Feuer believes it could be effective only after some compromises.

“Make sure there’s a built-in mechanism to constantly review the law’s impact on human rights and civil liberties,” she said. “You’ll build in a sort of self-correcting mechanism if you can.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Onize Ohikere

Onize is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Abuja, Nigeria.

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