At least 21 dead in attack on Tunisian museum

World Today

Tunisia AttackTunisian security forces secure the area after gunmen attacked Tunis’ famed Bardo Museum on March 18, 2015. At least seven foreigners and a Tunisian were killed in an attack by two men armed with assault rifles on the museum, the interior ministry said. AFP PHOTO / FETHI BELAID

Gunmen opened fire Wednesday at a major museum in Tunisia’s capital, Tunis, killing 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.
Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid said 21 people were killed including 17 tourists, 2 gunmen, 1 Tunisian security officer and 1 Tunisian cleaning woman. Prime Minister Essid said the 17 tourists came from Italy, Poland, Germany and Spain.

Two or three of the attackers remain at large according to Prime Minister Essid.

CCTV’s Roee Ruttenberg spoke about the attacks

Gunmen opened fire Wednesday at a major museum in Tunisia’s capital, Tunis, killing 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.

It was the worst attack on a tourist site in Tunisia in years, and comes as the country is trying to establish democracy and keep Islamic extremists at bay.

Footage broadcast on Tunisian TV showed armed men taking cover behind giant pillars outside the parliament building. Exchanges of gunfire first rang out from parliament around midday according to the TAP state news agency, and witnesses said large groups of police moved in to try and evacuate the area.

CCTV’s Roee Ruttenberg spoke about the attacks

Tunisia, whose 2011 uprising against autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali inspired ‘Arab Spring’ revolts in Egypt, Syria and Libya, has up until now largely avoided the chaos and violence that has plagued those countries, but Tunisia’s armed forces have been fighting Islamist militants who emerged after the uprising.

Several thousand Tunisians have also left the country to fight for militant groups in Syria, Iraq and Libya, and the government is worried about returning jihadis carrying out attacks at home.

The National Bardo Museum in Tunis, where the attack was carried out, is adjacent to the national parliament building which was evacuated after the shooting. The museum is a leading tourist attraction that chronicles Tunisia’s history and houses one of the world’s largest collections of Roman mosaics.

Story compiled with information from Reuters and The Associated Press.

A look back at unrest in Tunisia since the 2010 revolt

In 2010 an uprising toppled then Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, after 23 years in power. That revolution gave birth to the Arab Spring, and has seen a sharp rise in Islamist militancy that has left 60 police and military personnel dead over the years since. On December 17, 2010, a young university graduate who was only able to find work as a fruit seller protested by self-immolation against police harassment and unemployment in the central town of Sidi Bouzid. He died from his self-inflicted burns on January 4, unleashing a bloody riot against unemployment and the cost of living, which spreads across the country and takes on a political dimension. Around 338 are killed in the unrest.

2011 Islamist election win
On January 14 of 2011, thousands of demonstrators gather in Tunis and in the outer regions to call on president Ben Ali to step down. The then president flees to Saudi Arabia after 23 years in power, becoming the first Arab leader to quit under popular pressure.

2011 unrest continues
On February 25 of 2011, police stations are attacked as anti-government demonstrations force Ben Ali’s last prime minister, Mohamed Ghannouchi, to resign. He is replaced by veteran politician Beji Caid Essebsi.

2011 violence after election results
On October 27 and 28 of 2011, violence erupts in Sidi Bouzid after results of Tunisia’s first free election are announced. The Islamist Ennahda party wins most seats in a constituent assembly.

2012 radical Islamist attacks
On June 11 and 12 of 2012, unrest is triggered by an art exhibition of work deemed offensive to Islam. The government blames hard-line Salafists and old regime loyalists.

2012 violence continues
On September 14 of 2012, four attackers are killed in clashes at the US embassy amid protests over an anti-Islam film.

2012 clashes
Between November 27 and December 1 of 2012, 300 people are hurt in clashes between police and protesters in Siliana, Southwest of Tunis.

2013 opposition leaders killed
On February 6 of 2013, prominent opposition leader Chokri Belaid is shot dead, triggering deadly protests and a political crisis that brings down Islamist prime minister Hamadi Jebali. On July 25 of 2013, opposition leader Mohamed Brahmi is shot dead. Later in December of 2014 jihadists claim both killings.

2013 soldiers killed
On July 29 of 2013, 8 soldiers are killed in the Mount Chaambi area near Algeria where Tunisian forces had been hunting an Al Qaeda-linked group since that December. On August 2 of the same year, Tunisia’s army announces a major operation against Islamist militants in the area.

2013 suicide bomb
On October 30 of 2013, a suicide bomber blows himself up on a beach in the resort town of Sousse, leaving no victims, while security forces foil another planned attack nearby.

2014 first free presidential poll
On January 26 of 2014, Tunisian lawmakers adopt a new constitution after two years of political turmoil which exposed a deep rift between Ennahda and the secular opposition. A government of independents, led by Mehdi Jomaa was tasked with steering Tunisia to fresh elections and is sworn in, replacing the Islamist-led administration.

2014 police raid kills assassin
On February 4 of 2014, the suspected Islamist assassin of Belaid is killed in a police raid, one of seven heavily armed terrorists slain in an operation launched at a house in a Tunis suburb.

2014 Al Qaeda claims responsibility
On June 13 of 2014, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb says it is responsible for an attack on the interior minister’s home that killed four policemen, the first such claim in the country.

2014 Tunisian army deadliest attack
On July 16 of 2014, suspected jihadists kill 15 soldiers in the Mount Chaambi region in the deadliest such attack in the army’s history.

2014 suspected militants killed
On October 24 of 2014, police kill 6 suspected militants, 5 of them women, in a raid on a suburban house after a 28 hour standoff, fanning tensions ahead of parliamentary polls.

2014 Essebsi wins
On December 21 of 2014, Essebsi wins Tunisia’s first free presidential election.

2015 Tunis museum mass killing
On March 18 of 2015, 17 tourists from Poland, Italy, Germany and Spain are among the at least 21 people killed as gunmen attack a Tunis museum, according to the country’s prime minister.

Timeline compiled with information from Agence France-Presse