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British travellers have been ordered to leave Tunisia by the government amid fears of a further terrorist attack.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office advised on Thursday evening against all but essential travel to the north African country almost two weeks after 38 mainly British tourists were killed in a shooting on a beach near Sousse.
Tour operators reacted by cancelling flights and committing to bringing all remaining customers and staff home.
Foreign secretary, Philip Hammond said: “Since the attack in Sousse the intelligence and threat picture has developed considerably, leading us to the view that a further terrorist attack is highly likely.
“The Tunisian investigation into those behind the Sousse attack and that on the Bardo museum earlier this year is ongoing and the Tunisians have made clear they want to track down further individuals who they suspect may have links to this attack.
“While we are working with the Tunisian authorities to further strengthen those measures, we judge that more work is needed to effectively protect tourists from the terrorist threat.”
In a revised travel advisory, the FCO said: “Since the attack in Sousse, we have been working closely with the Tunisian authorities to investigate the attack and the wider threat from terrorist groups in Tunisia.
“Although we have had good co-operation from the Tunisian government, including putting in place additional security measures, the intelligence and threat picture has developed considerably, reinforcing our view that a further terrorist attack is highly likely.
“On balance, we do not believe the mitigation measures in place provide adequate protection for British tourists in Tunisia at the present time and we have therefore changed our travel advice accordingly.”
The FCO now advises against all but essential travel to the rest of Tunisia.
“If you’re in Tunisia and you don’t have an essential need to remain you should leave by commercial means,” it said.
“Tour operators are arranging additional flights and will be organising departures for their customers.
“If you’re travelling with a tour operator, you should contact your tour operator’s representative in the first instance.
“If you’re travelling independently, you should make your own arrangements to leave. Commercial airlines are operating. If you need consular assistance you should contact the British Embassy in Tunis.”
Nabil Ammar, the Tunisian ambassador to the UK, told BBC’s Newsnight that the impact of the updated travel advice would be “what the terrorists want”.
“By damaging the tourism, by having foreigners leaving the country, they damage the whole sector and put so many people out of work and on the streets,” he said.
Ammar added: “One of the sources of terrorism is lack of hope. It is not the only motor of it but it is one of the very important origins.”
The FCO estimates there are up to 3,000 UK tourists currently in Tunisia and a few hundred British residents.
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