Home / News / World /  Tunisia hostage crisis ends with 17 tourists dead: PM Habib Essid

Cairo: At least 19 people were killed after gunmen dressed as soldiers entered Tunisia’s parliament on Wednesday then fled to a nearby museum where they took hostages.

Among the dead at the Bardo Museum in central Tunis were 17 tourists, including citizens of Poland, Italy and Germany, Prime Minister Habib Essid said on national television. During a rescue operation, a policeman and two attackers were killed, and Essid said that three others may have been involved.

Tunisia has largely avoided the turmoil that followed the 2011 uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria and United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has cited the North African country as a model for post-revolution nations.

Still, the past four years have been punctuated with violence, including the assassinations of two opposition leaders that triggered the fall of Islamist-led governments.

Essid called on Tunisians to support the army and security forces as the country goes through “a sensitive and important phase" of its transition to democracy following the ouster of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Dozens of members of the security forces have been killed in battles with militants and bombings in recent months, mostly in the mountainous region that borders Algeria. Tunisia is also the largest source of foreign fighters joining Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Essid said that 400 people had recently been arrested for suspected terrorism links. He vowed to boost security in touristic areas.

Long war

Buses had brought about 100 tourists to the museum earlier Wednesday, interior ministry spokesman Mohamed Ali Laroui told local Mosaique FM radio. The gunmen used Kalashnikov rifles and homemade bombs, according to the station.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack which also left at least 21 people wounded.

“We are in a war with terrorism and it will be a long one," said Mohsen Marzouk, adviser to President Beji Caid Essebsi. “This operation aims at harming the Tunisian economy."

Tourism, a mainstay of the Tunisian economy, was beginning to show signs of recovery after drying up following the uprising, said Radwan Ben Saleh, head of the Tunisia tourism union.

A total of 36 Poles were inside the museum at the time of the attack, of whom three were wounded and 20 have been confirmed safe, the Polish foreign ministry said on Twitter. The Italian foreign ministry said that two Italians had been wounded.

Among the leaders to offer messages of support from allies, was French Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

We “firmly condemn this terrorist attack that has affected this museum," he said. Referring to the taking of hostages, he said, “this new attack illustrates the menaces, the threats that we are all facing in Europe." Bloomberg

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