At least 28 people have been killed in a terror attack on two hotels in a Tunisian tourist resort.
British man Alan Callaghan, from Sunderland, tweeted: “Sitting in room with staff, terrified, but I believe it’s over. Glad we weren’t next door, it’s terrible!”
He had earlier told the BBC that he heard an attack on a neighbouring hotel.
In a phone call, he said guests at the hotel swimming pool heard what they first thought was an engine backfiring, but were then sent to their rooms by hotel staff.
From his room at the Hotel Bellevue in El Kantaoui was able to see a man with a pistol outside.
He said that he and other guests took shelter in the hotel’s staff quarters.
British tourists are among 28 people who have been killed in the gun attack.
The slaughter happened when gunmen exchanged fire with security services on the busy beach in the town of Sousse, a popular destination for holidaymakers from the UK and Ireland.
The country’s Health Ministry confirmed that those killed included Britons, Tunisians, Germans and Belgians. Thirty six others have been wounded.
The atrocity, along with a terror attack in France in which a man was decapitated, prompted Prime Minister David Cameron to announce that the Government’s emergency Cobra committee would meet to discuss the situation.
It became apparent very quick that it was something more than firecrackers when you could hear bullets whizzing around.British holidaymaker Gary Pine
Speaking at the conclusion of the European Council summit in Brussels, Mr Cameron said he had spoken to French president Francois Hollande to offer his support following the attack in Grenoble and would also speak to the Tunisian government following the attack there to offer “our solidarity in fighting this evil of terrorism”.
He said: “This is a threat that faces all of us. These events have taken place today in Tunisia and in France but they can happen anywhere. We all face this threat.”
BAn Irish woman is understood to be among the 28 victims massacred in the gun attack, an Irish government source said.
Interior Ministry spokesman Mohammed Ali Aroui said: “A terrorist infiltrated the buildings from the back before opening fire on the residents of the hotel, including foreigners and Tunisians.”
Those killed are more likely to be foreign as the local Muslim population is less likely to go to the beach during the holy month of Ramadan.
Pictures posted on social media appeared to show the body of a man face down in the sand with empty sun loungers behind him.
Elizabeth O’Brien, an Irish woman on holiday with her two sons in the resort, described how she grabbed her children and ran for their lives when they heard gunfire erupting from one of the hotels.
‘’We were on the beach, my sons were in the sea and I just got out of the sea.
“It was about 12 o’clock and I just looked up about 500 metres from me and I saw a (hot air) balloon collapse down, then rapid firing, then I saw two of the people who were going to go up in the balloon start to run towards me - because I thought it was fireworks,’’ the Dubliner told RTE Radio.
“So, I thought ‘Oh my God, it sounds like gunfire’, so I just ran to the sea to my children and grabbed our things and as I was running towards the hotel, the waiters and the security on the beach started saying ‘run, run run!’ and we just ran to our room, which is like a little bungalow.
Tourist Gary Pine told Sky News: “We saw what we thought was firecrackers going off so we thought someone was celebrating.
“But you could see then quite quickly the panic that was starting to ensue from the next resort along from us, which is about 100 yards away, and so then people started exiting the beach pretty quickly, but only when you can start hearing bullets around your ears did you start to realise it was something more serious than firecrackers.”
Tension has been high in Tunisia since an attack on the National Bardo Museum in March which killed 22 people, mostly foreign tourists including a Briton.
A suicide bomber blew himself up in a failed attack on the beach in Sousse in October 2013, while 21 people lost their lives in an attack in the country earlier this year.
The country has undergone unprecedented social and political change since the 2011 uprisings and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office says there is a ‘’high’’ threat from terrorism.
Sousse is a city on the east coast of Tunisia, about 87 miles (140km) south of the capital, Tunis. Around 1.2 million tourists visit Sousse every year, drawn by the hotels, sandy beaches and culture.
RIU Hotels & Resorts, which owns the Imperial Marhaba, said travel company Tui operated from the hotel.
A statement on the company’s website said: “The Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel in Port El Kantaoui, Tunisia, has been affected by the attack which occurred this morning on the hotel’s beach.
“We are collecting all the information about the incident and are in permanent contact with the authorities in order to have full information about what happened.
“We would like to extend our sincere condolences to the victims and their relatives, and are awaiting to know more about this incident.”
Tui could not confirm whether it ran tours through the hotel.