Terror group ISIL has released a picture, purported to be the gunman who killed 37 people after opening fire at a popular tourist beach in Tunisia.
The man, named as local student Seifeddine Yacoubi – but dubbed Abu Yahya al-Qayrawani by ISIL – hid an assault rifle inside an umbrella as he carried out his attack at El Kantaoui, north of Sousse, spraying tourists and locals with bullets.
But ISIL has since released an image of the 23-year-old, via its social media accounts, claiming responsibility for the attack.
The pictures also included a statement: “Our brother, the soldier of the Caliphate, Abu Yahya al Qayrawani, reached his target the Imperial hotel despite the security measures”.
Authorities believe the gunman was intentionally targeting tourists at the well-known holiday spot and witnesses have claimed the attacker laughed as joked as he opened fire on sunbathers, specifically targeting British, French and other tourists as part of his rampage.
European and British tourists were among the 39 casualties, with dozens more injured.
The gunman was eventually shot dead by police.
Despite ISIL’s claims local authorities said no formal links to a particular group had been established.
In a statement on Twitter, ISIL said Yacoubi was a “solider of the caliphate” and most of those killed were “subjects of states that make up the crusader alliance fighting the state of the caliphate”.
The statement also promised more attacks.
Tunisian interior ministry spokesman Mohamed Ali Aroui told AFP: “The assailant was killed.”
Secretary of State for Security Rafik Chelly told Mosaique FM the gunman was a Tunisian student unknown to the authorities.
“He entered by the beach, dressed like someone who was going to swim, and he had a beach umbrella with his gun in it. Then when he came to the beach he used his weapon,” Chelly said.
British tourist Ellie Makin saw the attack unfold.
“All I saw was a gun and an umbrella being dropped,” she told ITV television.
“Then he started firing to the right hand side of us. If he had fired to the left I don’t know what would have happened, but we were very lucky.”
Other tourists said there were scenes of mass panic after the shooting started.
“I knew there was trouble when I heard a gunshot, you know, but then when I came out there was a loud explosion so I said ‘oh, this is really happening now,’ Irish tourist Anthony Thomstad said.
Holidaymaker Susan Ricketts said people were “running and screaming… crying and going hysterical”.
Briton Olivia Leathley, 24, heard “loud bangs” and when she went to the lobby to find out what was happening, she saw a woman whose husband had “been shot in the stomach in front of her”.
“She got dragged away by hotel reps trying to get her to safety but she was a complete mess. She was in hysterics,” she said.
“All she said was that he’d been shot and that he was there bleeding on the beach and he was just saying, ‘I love you, I love you’, and then his eyes rolled back into his head.”
Tunisians, Britons, Germans, Belgians and at least one Irish citizen are among the dead.
Yacoubi’s attack was one of a wave of terrorist incidents overnight that left dozens dead in several countries.
A man in France is being held in custody after allegedly beheading a man at an industrial gas factory and causing an explosion.
ISIL has also claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing attack in a Kuwaiti Shiite mosque that left 27 dead.
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said in London five Britons had been killed and warned that the toll could rise.
In Dublin, Foreign Minister Charles Flanagan said an Irish woman was among the dead.
World-wide, national leaders have condemned the attack.
The deputy British ambassador to Tunisia Rufus Drabble said his government was horrified by the incident.
“The UK government is sickened by this terrible, despicable act against both Western tourists and Tunisian nationals,” he said.
“Our priority now at the moment is we’ve got two teams down here, at the resort. Our priority has got to be the injured British nationals and those who were affected.”
Tunisia’s Prime Minister has also declared the war on terrorism was now a “national duty” and has called on citizens to unite.
President Francois Hollande of France and his Tunisian counterpart Beji Caid Essebsi both expressed their “solidarity in face of terrorism”, a statement in Paris said.
Essebsi later told AFP Tunisia cannot stand up to the jihadist threat alone, and urged a unified global strategy.
In Australia, the Abbott government called for solidarity with all three countries targeted this week.
“The Australian government condemns these attacks in the strongest possible terms,” Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said.
“We stand in solidarity with the people of France, Tunisia and Kuwait in the fight against terrorism.”
In Cairo, a leading Sunni Muslim institution called the “heinous” shooting a “violation of all religious and humanitarian norms”.
The shooting was the worst in modern-day Tunisia and followed a March attack on Tunis’s Bardo National Museum that killed 21 foreign tourists and a policeman.
IS claimed responsibility for the Bardo attack, although Tunisia says it was carried out by an Algerian jihadist.
Tunisia, birthplace of the Arab Spring, has seen a surge in radical Islam since veteran president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ousted in the 2011 revolution.
Dozens of members of the security forces have been killed in jihadist attacks since then.
In October 2013, a suicide bomber blew himself up in a botched attack on a Sousse beach while security forces foiled another planned attack nearby.
Even before the latest attack, Tunisia’s tourism industry had been bracing for a heavy blow from the Bardo shooting, but was determined to woo tourists with new security measures and advertising.
Tourism Minister Salma Rekik announced a raft of measures to bolster security in tourist areas and roads leading to them, and to tighten airport controls.
The tourism sector, which accounts for seven percent of Tunisia’s GDP and almost 400,000 direct and indirect jobs, had already been rattled by political instability and rising Islamist violence.