Three separate terrorist attacks have killed dozens of people in Tunisia, Kuwait and France. Germans and other Europeans were reported to be among those killed in the attack at a popular beach resort south of Tunis.
Tunisian officials put the death toll from the attack on the Imperial Marhaba hotel in the coastal resort of Sousse at 37 late on Friday, with dozens of others injured and being treated in local hospitals.
The Reuters news agency cited a source at Tunisia's health ministry, who said that German, British and Belgian nationals were among those killed when a gunman, who had concealed his weapon in an umbrella, opened fire on tourists lounging on the beat at the pool.
Tourists scrambled to escape the gunfire before police officers shot dead the attacker, according to witnesses and security officials.
There was no claim of responsibility for the attack at Sousse which is one of Tunisia's most popular resorts among European tourists. However, suspicion quickly fell on Islamist extremist groups, which have attacked North African tourist sites in the past. A spokesman for Tunisia's interior ministry labeled it a "terrorist attack."
Friday's shooting, which has been described at the worst in Tunisia's modern history, came at a time when the country was on a high state of alert following an attack on the Bardo National Museum in Tunis back in March, which killed 21 foreign tourists and a policeman.
French attack, beheading
The Sousse attack came shortly after reports of an attack by a suspected Islamist near the southeastern French city of Lyon. There, the assailant rammed his car into an industrial gas plant setting off and explosion. At least one person was killed and several others injured, and a severed head was found pinned to the gates of the facility, daubed with Arabic script.
A suspect was taken into custody by police after he was overpowered by a firefighter who was at the scene after responding to an emergency call.
Speaking to reporters at a European summit in Brussels, French President Francois Hollande described the event as a "terrorist" attack, before leaving the meeting with his fellow EU leaders early.
French Prosecutor Francois Molins told a news conference on Friday evening that the suspect was 35 years old and had no criminal record, but was known to the intelligence services for having links to radical Islamist groups. He also said that a total of four arrests had been made in connection with the attack, including the suspect's wife and sister. French media also reported that police were searching for a second person suspected of direct involvement in the attack.
Suicide attack in Kuwaiti mosque
Meanwhile in Kuwait, the interior ministry said that a suicide bomber had blown himself up during Friday prayers in a Shiite mosque in Kuwait city, killing at least five people. The Islamist extremist group "Islamic State" has claimed responsibility for what was the first such attack in the oil-exporting country.
It wasn't immediately clear if there was any link between the three attacks, which were roundly condemned by members of the international community.
pfd/jil (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)