PM pledges ‘full spectrum’ of response to terrorists as Tunisia death toll rises

A man places a wraeth of flowers during a gathering at the scene of the attack in Sousse, Tunisia, Sunday, June 28, 2015. The Friday attack on tourists at a beach is expected to be a huge blow to Tunisia's tourism sector, which made up nearly 15 percent of the country's gross domestic product in 2014. (AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar)
A man places a wraeth of flowers during a gathering at the scene of the attack in Sousse, Tunisia, Sunday, June 28, 2015. The Friday attack on tourists at a beach is expected to be a huge blow to Tunisia's tourism sector, which made up nearly 15 percent of the country's gross domestic product in 2014. (AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar)

David Cameron has pledged a “full spectrum” response to terrorists as the British death toll from the Tunisian beach massacre is expected to reach at least 30.

The Prime Minister said Home Secretary Theresa May is travelling to the country today for talks on how to address the extremist threat and to pay condolences at the scene.

Lisa Burbidge

Lisa Burbidge

An RAF C17 transport plane is also being deployed to help bring stranded tourists home, and potentially repatriate bodies.

Lisa Burbidge, from Whickham in Gateshead, was on holiday with her family when she died in the attack.

Ms Burbidge, who is said to have been aged in her 60s, was confirmed dead by her son-in-law.

Mr Cameron said the Government is working “as fast as we can” to give families information.

This is an absolutely horrific attack and I know it has shocked the whole of the country, it has shocked the whole of the world.

David Cameron

“I know it has taken time but these are very difficult things and we must get them right,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Mr Cameron said the Government was ready to repatriate victims’ bodies if requested by their families.

“We are very happy to look at that. There are all sorts of other arrangements being put in place but I am keen that, as a nation, we show respect and our condolences ... and if they would like for us to try and bring back the bodies of their loved ones with dignity and respect that is something we can do.”

The Prime Minister renewed his appeal for an end to the use of the name Islamic State.

“I wish the BBC would stop calling it ‘Islamic State’ because it is not an Islamic state.

“What it is is an appalling barbarous regime that is a perversion of the religion of Islam and many Muslims listening to this programme will recoil every time they hear the words.

“’So-called’ or Isil is better,” he said - using the abbreviation of the title Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

He said the “poisonous death cult” was “seducing too many young minds in Europe, in America, in the Middle East and elsewhere and this is going to be the struggle of our generation and we have to fight it with everything we can.”

A total of 38 people were killed when a gunman opened fire on a beach in the Sousse resort on Friday, with the the Foreign Office already confirming 15 of them were from Britain.

However, that number is likely to rise dramatically as more of the victims are identified. Three Irish nationals are also among the dead.

Mr Cameron, who is chairing another meeting of the government’s Cobra emergency committee later, said Mrs May and Foreign Office minister Tobias Ellwood would be visiting the resort.

“This is an absolutely horrific attack and I know it has shocked the whole of the country, it has shocked the whole of the world,” he said.

Asked if British Muslims had not been tough enough in condemning such acts of terrorism, Mr Cameron said: “No, I don’t believe that is the case... the point I am making is there are some organisations and some people who buy not the terrorism, but they buy a lot of the extremist narrative. To those people we have got to say that is not an acceptable view.

“We are not going to engage with people who believe there ought to be a caliphate and women should be subjugated.

“My point is some organisations set themselves up as representative of Muslim communities when actually they are not. Do not treat them as spokespeople for all of the community.”

Mr Cameron dismissed criticism from Tory former minister Baroness Warsi that his appeal to Muslims not to “quietly condone” terrorist groups meant he had “lost sections of the Muslim community”.

“I have an honest disagreement with Sayeeda who I have debated this with many times.

“My point is that we should engage with imams, with Muslim communities, with Muslim organisations but we should have some basic rules in terms of our engagement and if organisations back extremist preachers or believe that it’s all right to be a suicide bomber in Israel, it’s just not all right to commit terrorist acts elsewhere then I think we have a serious problem.

“The way we engage should be engaging with organisations that want to build an integrated, democratic, successful, multi-racial Britain. That’s what I believe in and that’s what most Muslims believe in, the vast majority.

“Having a dialogue with people that don’t take that view doesn’t help.”

Mr Cameron defended the current military action against the so-called Islamic State (also referred to as Isil) - including air strikes against its strongholds in Iraq.

Former head of the army Lord Dannatt is among senior figures calling for allied special forces to be sent in on the ground to help destabilise Isil’s hold on swathes of territory there and in Syria.

The PM said: “I am not underestimating the military end of the conflict. There are people in Iraq and Syria who are plotting to carry out terrible acts in Britain and elsewhere and as long as Isil exists in those two countries we are at threat.”

But asked about escalating the response, he said: “First of all, we never comment on what our special forces do and I think it is important we maintain that position.

“Second of all, we are investing heavily in the air strikes which make a difference,” he said - saying they had won back “a lot of territory”.

“But third, and most important, is that our strategy - and I think it is the right strategy, is to build local armies in Iraq and Syria and local governments in Iraq and Syria.”

“Whether it is Iraq, whether it is Syria, whether it is Libya, the same thing is required which is governments which can represent all of their people.”