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Father of Alleged Tunisia Beach Attack Gunman 'Ashamed'

by Kelly Cobiella /  / Updated 

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KAIROUAN, Tunisia — The father of the gunman who killed at least 39 people on a tourist-filled beach in Tunisia said Sunday he is “shocked” and “ashamed” by the violence his son unleashed Friday.

The suspected gunman — identified by Tunisia's Interior Ministry as 24-year-old student Seifeddine Rezgui — died during the Friday attack after killing and injuring dozens of vacationers, most of whom were British, German and Belgian. At least 30 Britons died in the attack, NBC News has learned.

The assault was claimed by ISIS.

“I have no idea who influenced him or who put these ideas in his head,” Rezgui’s father, Hakim, told NBC News' British partner ITV News. “I am so shocked … I am so ashamed,” Rezgui said.

After hours of being questioned by police, Rezgui said he was grieving for the families of the 39 people who were killed. “I feel the loss of the families so strongly. I feel like I have died along with the victims,” he said.

Rezgui’s aunt, Zara, said the family didn’t know of his radicalism. “He told us nothing of his secret,” she told ITV. “God has cursed us.”

While the family said they were unaware of Rezgui’s extremism, people who knew him from school said his violent ways had long been apparent at school.

“Regui is very extremist, a jihadist, always fighting with those who don't agree with his ideas,” said a classmate, Najib Haji.

Ameni Sassi, general secretary of a leftist student union, described how Seifeddin Rezgui helped lead attacks against them. The group Rezgui was a part of “said it is war between the believers and the infidels," Sassi said.

Three of Rezgui's roommates and were also detained for questioning Sunday in connection with the assault, Interior Ministry spokesman Ali Aroui told The Associated Press. Aroui said that "we are sure that others helped but did not participate" except indirectly.

Image: TUNISIA-UNREST-TOURISM
A photo taken on June 28, 2015, shows the house of Seifeddine Rezgui, the assailant behind the beachside massacre at Riu Imperial Marhaba on the outskirts of Sousse, in the town of Gaafour near Siliana, northwest of Tunis.FAWZI DRIDI / AFP - Getty Images

Mohamed Mijbary, who prays at the mosque next door to an apartment that Rezgui lived with six other students until about a month ago, said the suspected attacker was polite, but never stopped to talk.

"He kept to himself. He dressed normally. There was nothing to suggest he was an extremist, a radical," Mijbary said.

He said some of the students Rezgui lived with were observant Muslims, while others were not, and he never saw Rezgui pray at the mosque.

The site of the massacre, in front of the Imperial Marhaba Hotel, was guarded by extra security officers Sunday, while people left flowers and notes at a growing makeshift memorial in the still-bloodied sand.

Image: Tunisia shooting suspect
This image released through social media accounts associated with ISIS, purports to show Tunisian Seifeddine Rezgui, who is believed to be the gunman who killed tens of people in the holiday resort of Sousse on 26 June.EPA

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