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Islamic State role being investigated in Tunisia museum attack

Tunisia Prime Minister Habib Essid said 21 people died after an attack on a major museum, including 17 foreign tourists.

Tunisia, Bardo, BArdo National Museum, Bardo National Museum Attacked, Islamic state, Tunisia museum attack, Bardo Museum attack, Bardo Museum shooting, tunisia museum shooting, Tunisia terror attack, Islamic State attack, terrorism tunisia, tunisia attack, Islamic State tunisia, World News Tunisians holding candles pray at the entrance gate of the National Bardo Museum where scores of people were killed after gunmen staged an attack, Tunis, Wednesday, March 18, 2015. (AP Photo)

By: Tarek Amara

Gunmen in military uniforms stormed Tunisia’s national museum around noon on Wednesday, killing 17 foreign tourists and two Tunisians. Two of the gunmen were killed by security forces, but Prime Minister Habib Essid said a manhunt was on for two or three others. The identity of the attackers wasn’t clear.

According to an NYT report, eight people were killed as they got off a bus to visit the National Bardo Museum, near parliament in central Tunis, while 10 more were taken hostage and then killed. State television reported that a Tunisian museum guard also died in the attack.

IN PICTURES: Gunmen in military uniforms storm Tunisia’s national museum

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Prime Minister Essid said tourists from Italy, Germany, Poland and Spain were among those killed. “Two terrorists disguised in military clothes got into the parliament building, then the museum where they attacked tourists. Nineteen people were killed including 17 foreign tourists. Twenty-two tourists are wounded,” said Essid.

He said two or three of the attackers remained at large. “All Tunisians should be united after this attack which was aimed at destroying the Tunisian economy,” he said.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said “terrorist organisations” were behind the attack. “The EU is determined to mobilise all the tools it has to fully support Tunisia in the fight against terrorism,” she added.

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“Two militants opened fire on the tourists as they were getting off the buses before fleeing into the museum,” one Bardo employee told Reuters at the scene.

Television footage showed dozens of people, including elderly foreigners and one man carrying a child, running for shelter in the compound, covered by security forces aiming rifles in the air.

The attack on such a high-profile target is a blow for the small North African country that relies heavily on European tourism and has largely avoided major militant violence since its 2011 uprising to oust autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali — seen by many as the start of the “Arab Spring”.

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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 (IS) group. It also has extremists linked to al-Qaeda’s North Africa arm who occasionally target Tunisian security forces.

Authorities estimate that about 3,000 Tunisians have also joined fighters in Iraq and Syria — raising fears they could return and mount attacks at home.

The Bardo Museum is known for its collection of ancient Tunisian artifacts and mosaics and other treasures from classical Rome and Greece. There were no immediate reports that the attackers had copied IS militants in Iraq by targeting exhibits seen by hardliners as idolatrous.

Wednesday’s attack came a day after Tunisian security officials confirmed the death in neighboring Libya of a leading suspect in Tunisian terror attacks and in the killings of two opposition figures in Tunisia.

— Reuters with AP inputs

First published on: 18-03-2015 at 06:23:49 pm
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