Attack In Tunisian Capital Kills 19; 2 Gunmen Slain
TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Foreign tourists scrambled in panic Wednesday after militants stormed a museum in Tunisia’s capital and killed 19 people, “shooting at anything that moved,” a witness said.
The militants, who wore military-style uniforms and wielded assault rifles, burst from a vehicle and began gunning down tourists climbing out of buses at the National Bardo Museum. The attackers then charged inside to take hostages before being killed in a firefight with security forces.
Prime Minister Habib Essid said the two Tunisian gunmen killed 17 tourists — five from Japan, four from Italy, two from Colombia, two from Spain, and one each from Australia, Poland and France
At least 44 people were wounded, including tourists from Italy, France, Japan, South Africa, Poland, Belgium and Russia, according to Essid and doctors from Tunis’ Charles Nicolle.
Essid identified the slain gunmen as Yassine Laabidi and Hatem Khachnaoui.
Twitter accounts associated with the extremist Islamic State group based in Syria and Iraq were described as overjoyed at the attack, urging Tunisians to “follow their brothers,” according to Rita Katz of SITE, a U.S.-based organization that monitors militant groups.
Dozens of tourists scrambled from the museum linking arms or clutching children as Tunisian police and security forces pointed their weapons at the building.
On Wednesday night, parliament held an extraordinary session where Speaker Mohammed Ennaceur called for the creation of a special fund to combat terrorism. He also called for the rapid passage of the anti-terror law that parliament had been debating when the attack took place.
Essid said the attack was an unprecedented assault on the economy. It came as Tunisia’s all-important tourism business was starting to rebuild after drastic losses following the post-revolutionary turmoil. Numbers of arrivals for 2014 had begun to approach the levels of 2010 — before the revolution.
It was the worst attack in the country since an al-Qaida militant detonated a truck bomb in front of a historic synagogue on the Tunisia’s island of Djerba in 2002, killing 21, mostly German tourists.
Tunisia has been more stable than other countries in the region, but has struggled with violence by Islamic extremists who have sworn allegiance to both al-Qaida and the Islamic State group.
The United States, France, the United Arab Emirates and the United Nations denounced the bloodshed. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington “condemns in the strongest possible terms today’s deadly terrorist attack” and praised Tunisia’s “rapid response” to resolve the hostage situation and restore calm.
Tunisia has repeatedly expressed concern over the security threat from Libya, where central government has broken down since the 2011 ouster of Moammar Gadhafi and is now run by competing militias.