Armed attackers opened fire Wednesday at a major museum in Tunisia’s capital. More than 17 tourists were gunned down, while dozens more sprinted to safety. At least 21 people were killed in the attack. Among them are two gunmen, but authorities are on the look-out for attackers that may have escaped.
The attack targeted the famous National Bardo Museum in Tunis. It was the first incident of this kind on a tourist site in Tunisia, after years of peace. Tunisia is a young democracy, with very low Islamic extremist violence. The attack has not yet been claimed.
As a precautionary measure, security forces cleared the area, while the parliament building from Tunis, which is next to the museum, was intermediately evacuated.
Tunisian security forces were shown on local TV escorting dozens of tourists away from the danger. The footage also showed a large group of frightened tourists running for their lives.
According to a statement issued by Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid, among the 21 dead are 17 tourists, from Poland, Germany, Spain and Italy, two gunmen, a Tunisian cleaning woman and a Tunisian security officer. He added that two or three of the attackers are still at large.
Some of the Italian tourists at the museum were passengers of the Costa Fascinosa, a cruise liner that had docked in Tunis. The cruise ship which is on a 7-day trip around the Mediterranean Sea recalled all the passengers on board.
Tunisia’s main income source is tourism and Wednesday’s attack was a strong blow to the industry.
The National Bardo Museum occupies a 15th-century palace and is the largest museum in Tunisia. It houses, among its 8.000 works, one of the world’s largest collections of Roman mosaics. The museum is close to the city center.
Tunisia recently made a switch to democracy after overthrowing its authoritarian president in 2011. The move was considered by experts as the start of the so-called Arab Spring. The North African country has been more stable than its neigbours, but there were some attacks by Islamic extremists in recent years. Some of these actions are linked to the Islamic State group. It also has extremists linked to al-Qaida’s North Africa arm who occasionally target Tunisian security forces.
Tunisian security forces are also targeted by militants linked to al-Qaida’s North Africa. Some 3,000 Tunisian recruits have joined the Islamic State in Syria and Iran.
The American Embassy in the Tunisian capital was attacked in September 2012. Four of the assailants were killed in the attack.
Image Source: Albawaba