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Shocked tourists abandon cruise after Tunis massacre

[BARCELONA] Hundreds of shocked tourists disembarked Friday in Spain after their luxury cruise was cut short by a jihadist massacre in a Tunisian museum that killed 12 of their fellow passengers.

Of the more than 3,000 passengers who had sailed on the cruise liner MSC Splendida, 25 did not return: 12 were killed in the attack and 13 injured when gunmen stormed the museum in Tunis on Wednesday.

"They started shooting at the tourists. Anyone they found, they shot at, without mercy," one passenger who witnessed the attack, Jose Lluis Cusido, mayor of the town of Vallmoll west of Barcelona, told reporters after disembarking.

The jihadist group calling itself the Islamic State claimed it had carried out the attack, which killed 21 people.

Victoria Bronskaya, a 33-year-old tour guide from Belarus, was on a bus parked outside the National Bardo Museum in Tunis along with her mother when the attackers struck.

"We threw ourselves to the floor and they started shooting at the bus," she told AFP.

"I wasn't even afraid. You just think about saving yourself. I shouted 'God save me' in Russian." As she and others cowered inside, the gunmen shot two other tourists trying to board the bus. The dead bodies blocked the door of the vehicle.

"That is why the terrorist could not get on board," Ms Bronskaya said.

Newlyweds Francisco Buciegas and his wife Inma, from Cordoba, stepped off shocked after their honeymoon was cut short.

"The whole thing was really awful. It made us really anxious," Ms Inma, who is four months pregnant, told AFP, trying not to cry.

"I don't want anything more to do with Arab countries," added Francisco.

A passenger, Josefa Ramirez, from Malaga in Spain, who was on the boat with her husband Jose Pinto, said she had dined at the same table as that couple on board the Splendida.

"Their children had paid for the cruise for their 50th wedding anniversary," Mr Josefa said.

"Now this has taken away any desire to return, to Tunisia or to any Arab country."

Seven hundred passengers on the Splendida ended their cruise in Barcelona, while the hundreds of others stayed on board to continue their cruise around the Mediterranean.

"It was very sad last night. Nobody was dancing," said Piot Henri, a 50-year-old from the Indian Ocean island of La Reunion.

"I'm wasn't afraid though, and I'm still not scared. I'll still go and visit Arab countries." The cruise operator MSC Cruceros said it was cancelling all its stopovers in Tunisia this year.

Bronskaya said she and her mother stayed on the bus for four hours before being rescued.

"We only started to cry afterwards, when we saw the Tunisian people taking pity on us, saying: 'Forgive us," she said.