Three separate terror attacks, some or all of which may have been coordinated, rocked Tunisia, France and Kuwait on Friday, killing at least 63 people, including Western tourists.
In Tunisia, a popular destination for European tourists, at least 37 people were shot dead by gunmen on a beach in the resort town of El Kantaoui near the city of Sousse. Britons, Germans and and a Belgian were among the dead.
Hours earlier, a French man was decapitated and an Islamist flag raised near a factory in the town of Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, near Grenoble in southeastern France.
Islamist extremists are suspected of involvement in both attacks, but no one had claimed responsibility by Friday afternoon.
A third assault took place in Kuwait, where a suicide bomber blew himself up at a Shi’ite Muslim mosque in Kuwait City, killing at least 25 people and injuring more than 200. The Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility for the bombing.
In Tunisia, two Kalashnikov-wielding gunmen reportedly ran amok among holidaymakers relaxing on sunloungers on a beach between two resort hotels.
The Tunisian health ministry said that holidaymakers from Britain, Germany and Belgium were among the victims, with unconfirmed reports suggesting an Irish woman was also killed.
One gunman was shot dead at the scene by security services, while another was thought to have been arrested after a firefight with police.
The German foreign ministry was setting up an emergency response team to help deal with the crisis, while Britain’s government convened its Cobra security committee.
Commenting on the shootings at an E.U. summit in Brussels, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: “We have to be careful that Islamic fighters do not enter the European Union.”
In the French attack, a man carrying an Islamist flag killed one person and injured several others at a gas factory owned by U.S. company Air Products.
The attacker apparently entered the factory and set off small explosive devices. The decapitated body was found near the factory.
The victim is reported to be have been the manager of a transport company making a delivery, according to local paper the Dauphiné Libéré.
The French interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, identified the man arrested at the scene as Yassin Salhi, a 35-year-old who was known to intelligence agencies and has suspected links to an Islamic extremist group.
According to Dauphiné Libéré a second suspect, thought to be an accomplice, was arrested at his home on Friday afternoon.
French President François Hollande said the attack was of “a terrorist nature” and left an E.U. summit in Brussels to return to Paris, where he planned to hold an emergency meeting. Prime Minister Manuel Valls is to cut short a trip to South America.
After news of the attack broke, Mr. Hollande said: “There is emotion. But emotion must not be the only response. Action, prevention, deterrence and the necessity… not to give in to fear… Creating useless divisions and suspicion would be intolerable.”
The German foreign affairs minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said his country stands “shoulder-to-shoulder with France in the defense of our free society against the blind hatred of terror.”
Meanwhile, the country’s interior minister, Thomas de Maizière told reporters that “there was no guarantee that such an attack would not take place in Germany,” but that security services were doing everything to minimize the possibility.
Islamist terrorists struck France earlier this year.
On January 7, two gunmen entered the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris, killing eight members of staff, including four cartoonists. The irreverent magazine had long poked fun at the political establishment and major religions, including Islam.
Four hostages were killed by another attacker in a Jewish supermarket in Paris the same week.
All three attackers were killed by security guards.
On Friday, at least 28 people were killed in an attack by two gunmen on two hotels near the Tunisian city of Sousse.
At least one gunman has been shot dead, Interior Ministry Spokesman Mohammed Ali Aroui told reporters, saying that the police were now pursuing a second man.
A British tourist close to the scene of the attack described his experiences to British broadcaster Sky News.
Gary Pine said he was on the beach and heard what “we thought was firecrackers going off” followed by an explosion from the next hotel complex along.
“There was a mass exodus off the beach,” he said. Mr. Pine said his son said he had seen someone get shot on the beach.
He said that his hotel told guests to lock themselves in their rooms, and later to gather in the lobby.
Tunisia has been on alert since an attack by Islamists on the Bardo museum in Tunis in March in which 22 people died.
Meera Selva is an editor at Handelsblatt Global Edition in Berlin who has covered politics and security issues in Europe and Africa. Siobhán Dowling covers European politics. Gilbert Kreijger, an editor with Handelsblatt Global Edition, contributed to this article. To contact the authors: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.