Tunisian museum siege tourists identified

2015-03-18 18:23
An image grab taken from the state-run Tunisia 1 channel shows people escaping from Tunis' famed Bardo Museum during an attack by men armed with assault rifles. (Tunisia 1, AFP)

An image grab taken from the state-run Tunisia 1 channel shows people escaping from Tunis' famed Bardo Museum during an attack by men armed with assault rifles. (Tunisia 1, AFP)

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

Tunis - Attackers opened fire on Wednesday at a major museum in Tunisia's capital, gunning down 17 tourists as dozens more sprinted to safety. At least 21 people in all were killed, including two gunmen, but some attackers may have escaped, authorities said.

The attack on the famed National Bardo Museum in Tunis was the first on a tourist site in years in Tunisia, a shaky young democracy that has struggled to keep Islamic extremist violence at bay.

It wasn't clear who the attackers were but security forces immediately flooded the area. Tunisia's parliament building, next to the museum, was evacuated.

Private television Wataniya showed 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.

Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid said 21 people were killed: 17 tourists, two gunmen, a Tunisian security officer and a Tunisian cleaning woman. He said the dead tourists came from Italy, Poland, Germany and Spain.

He said two or three of the attackers remained at large.

Several other people were reported wounded in the attack, including three Poles and at least two Italians. The Italian Foreign Ministry said 100 other Italians had been taken to a secure location.

Some of the Italians at the museum were believed to have been passengers aboard the Costa Fascinosa, a cruise liner making a seven-day trip of the western Mediterranean that had docked in Tunis. Ship owner Costa Crociere confirmed that some of its 3 161 passengers were visiting the capital on Wednesday and that a Bardo tour was on the itinerary, but said it couldn't confirm how many, if any, passengers were in the museum at the time.

The cruise ship recalled all the passengers to the ship and was in touch with local authorities and the Italian Foreign Ministry.

Strong blow

Wednesday's attack was a strong blow to Tunisia's efforts to revive its crucial tourism industry.

The National Bardo Museum, built in a 15th-century palace, is the largest museum in Tunisia and houses one of the world's largest collections of Roman mosaics among its 8 000 works. 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.

"It is not by chance that today's terrorism affects a country that represents hope for the Arab world. The hope for peace, the hope for stability, the hope for democracy. This hope must live," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in a statement minutes after the crisis ended.

Speaking at the Louvre museum to call for international efforts to preserve the heritage of Iraq and Syria against extremist destruction, French President Francois Hollande said he had called the Tunisian president to offer support and solidarity.

"Each time a terrorist crime is committed, we are all concerned," Hollande said.

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 ISIS 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 comes the day after Tunisian security officials confirmed the death in neighbouring Libya of a leading suspect in Tunisian terror attacks and in 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:    isis  |  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
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

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


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.


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.