Tunisia museum siege ends, leaves 11 dead

2015-03-18 16:58
Tunisian security forces secure the area after gunmen attacked Tunis' famed Bardo Museum. (Fethi Belaid,  AFP)

Tunisian security forces secure the area after gunmen attacked Tunis' famed Bardo Museum. (Fethi Belaid, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Tunis - Gunmen opened fire on Wednesday at a leading museum in Tunisia's capital, killing at least eight people and wounding six, including foreign tourists, authorities said. A later raid by security forces left two gunmen and one security officer dead but ended the stand-off, Tunisian authorities said.

It was the first attack on a tourist site in years in Tunisia, a shaky young democracy that has struggled to keep Islamic extremist violence at bay.

Security forces filled the area around the National Bardo Museum after the attack. It wasn't immediately clear who the attackers were or if they took hostages, but Interior Ministry spokesperson Mohamed Ali Aroui told Radio Mosaique the stand-off was over after the raid.

Private television Wataniya showed images of masked Tunisian security forces escorting dozens of tourists up nearby steps and away from the danger, as armed security forces pointed guns toward an adjacent building. Many elderly people, apparently tourists, ran in panic to safety, including at least one couple carrying two children.

Tunisia's parliament building, next to the museum, was evacuated.

Aroui told Wataniya television that eight people were dead - seven foreign tourists and one Tunisian. He didn't provide nationalities for the foreign victims. Poland's Foreign Ministry announced that three Poles were among the wounded while the Italian Foreign Ministry said at least two Italians were wounded and 100 other Italians had been taken to a secure location.

Tunisia recently completed a rocky road to democracy after overthrowing its authoritarian president in 2011, seen by many as the start of the so-called Arab Spring. The country has been more stable than other countries in the region, but has struggled with violence by Islamic extremists in recent years, including some linked to the Islamic State group. It also has extremists linked to al-Qaeda's North Africa arm who occasionally target Tunisian security forces.

A disproportionately large number of Tunisian recruits - some 3 000, according to government estimates - have joined Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq.

The American Embassy in Tunis was attacked in September 2012, seriously damaging the embassy grounds and an adjoining American school. Four of the assailants were killed. Overall, though, the violence that Tunisia has seen in recent years has been largely focused on security forces, not foreigners or tourist sites.

The attack is a strong blow to Tunisia's efforts to revive its tourism industry.

Roman mosaics

The National Bardo Museum, built within a 15th-century palace, is the largest museum in Tunisia with collections covering two floors, and it houses one of the world's largest collections of Roman mosaics.

The museum is near the North African nation's parliament 4km from the city centre. A new wing with contemporary architecture was built as part of a 2009 renovation, doubling the surface area. Some 8 000 works are displayed in the museum, according to the website.

The attack comes the day after Tunisian security officials confirmed the death in neighbouring Libya of a leading suspect in Tunisian terror attacks and the killings of two opposition figures in Tunisia. Ahmed Rouissi gained the nickname of the "black box of terrorism."

The information on his death was made public by security officials giving testimony in parliament and cited by the official TAP news agency.

Libya, which has devolved into chaos, is a source of major concern for Tunisia.

Also a major worry is the Mount Chaambi area on the border with Algeria where al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has reportedly been helping a Tunisian group which has killed numerous soldiers.

Read more on:    north africa  |  tunisia attack

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
3 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.