Home of the Arab Spring, ISIS-inspired militants murdered foreign tourists in a Tunisian museum
At least 25 people, mostly foreign tourists, have been killed by gunmen during an attack on the Bardo museum in the Tunisian capital of Tunis.
Those killed include tourists from Japan, Italy, Colombia, Australia, Britain, Belgium, France, Poland and Spain.
Two Tunisians, one of whom was a police officer, were also killed in the attack.
The attack was carried out by two gunmen, Yassine Laabidi and Hatem Khachnaoui, who reportedly received weapons training in Libya.
The Bardo museum neighbours the Tunisian parliamentary building, which at the time was discussing anti-terrorism legislation.
Parliament was quickly evacuated and it is remains unknown if it was related to the attack in any way.
“It is a critical moment in our history, and a defining moment of our future,” said Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid in relation to the attack.
Nine people have been arrested in relation to the attack, which the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for. Four of those arrested were directly related to the attack, with another five arrested for having ties to the terrorist cell.
This attack is the first time that the Islamic State has struck Tunisia, and along with a series of attacks carried out in neighbouring Libya, could suggest that IS is growing its North African operations.
17 of those killed were from two cruise ships that were docked in Tunis at the time. The ships have since safely arrived in Spain.
Family members of those killed have been arriving at Charles Nicolle hospital in central Tunis from all over the world to identify and mourn their loved ones. Most of these families have been looked after by the consular staff of their respective country.
The hospital also houses several other patients injured in the attack.
Many demonstrators appeared outside Bardo museum to sympathize with those that died. Some held banners that read “Terrorism has nothing to do with Islam or Tunisia”.
Tunisian President Essebsi, the winner of Tunisia’s first free presidential elections in December, has called on his country to unite “in the face of terrorism, like their forefathers did in the face of the colonisers”.
The attacks will no doubt be a large blow to Tunisia’s tourism sector, a key aspect of their economy. A large number of people from across Europe visit the country every year, mainly for its renowned resorts.
The country was once a bastion of secularism in the Arab world, but has seen a growing presence of Islamic militants since an uprising in 2011.
Authorities say that over 3,000 Tunisian citizens have gone abroad to countries including Syria and Iraq to wage jihad, many with Islamic State. This makes the largest number of foreign fighters within the ranks of the terrorist group.
Some of these militants are believed to have returned to Tunisia, creating a large security threat.
Tunisia’s current government is perceived as being soft on militant Islamic groups, especially after the assassination of two secular politicians in 2013.