Tunisia tour guide tells of ‘panic’ in dramatic escape

2015-03-20 07:22
People are evacuated from the Bardo museum in Tunis. (Hassene Dridi, AP)

People are evacuated from the Bardo museum in Tunis. (Hassene Dridi, AP)

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

Tunis - A Tunisian tour guide has told of how he used his knowledge of the Tunis museum attacked by gunmen on Wednesday to help foreign tourists escape the carnage that left 20 others dead.

"I was on the second floor at around 11:30, half an hour before it all started. Then I heard gunshots," Hamadi Ben Abdessalam, who has been a guide in the capital since 1970, told AFP Thursday.

"My first reaction was that this wasn't an attack. I told my clients that something had fallen from the ceiling but it was [they] who told me it was a terrorist attack," he said.

It was only when Abdessalam saw bullet casings that he realised how grave the situation was.

"We were all on our knees and everyone was panicking," he said.

The museum visitors were fortunate that Abdessalam, in his sixties and sporting a salt-and-pepper beard, knew the museum well.

"I started off to the right and 30 people followed me," he said. "Since I know the area... I headed in the direction of an emergency exit."

‘First in Tunisia’

Wednesday's assault on the National Bardo Museum in central Tunis that killed 21 people - all except one of them foreign tourists - was claimed by the Islamic State group, which promised further attacks.

"This is a first in Tunisia. No one saw this coming," Abdessalam said.

Nine of the slain tourists were from the MSC Splendida cruise ship, as was the group Abdessalam had been guiding.

He said he there were tears in his eyes when he arrived safely back with the Italians at the port of Goulette in northern Tunis after the attack.

"When we got to the port we experienced something extraordinary. We were applauded by the passengers, people embraced us, everyone was crying: the guides, the police," Abdessalam said.

"It was something really fantastic and it helped free us from the panic."

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

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.