Early reports out of Tunis, Tunisia say that several gunmen stormed a popular museum in Tunisia’s capital on Wednesday; killing 19 people, including 17 tourists, and are threatening more violence. We believe they have also taken hostages.
Two of the gunman were slain by local security forces that regained control of the museum, while three gunmen remained at large, Prime Minister Habib Essid told reporters, when announcing the casualty toll.
It seems that there were about 200 tourists were visiting the renowned Bardo National Museum, located near the parliament building in central Tunis. It has been confirmed that there were 3-armed men who charged into the building, but there could be others at-large said an interior ministry spokesman said. Other than the 17 tourists, 1 museum staffer was killed.
A government spokesperson said the tourists hailed from France, Spain, Poland, England and Italy, adding that the majority of tourists were able to escape with the help of security forces.
The world will be waiting for answers as to who is responsible for this horrendous attack. There has been no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack; French President François Hollande drew parallels between Wednesday’s violence in North Africa and the terror attacks that have shaken the capitals of France and Denmark in recent months.
“We are all affected. That is as true in Tunis today as it was in Copenhagen,” Mr. Hollande said.
Tunisian political leaders quickly condemned this attack, hoping that an unfortunate event such as this shouldn’t be allowed to unravel the gains the nation has made since 2011. About 12% of Tunisia’s GDP relies on tourism, which saw a dramatic dip since 2011 but has recently begun to recover, with a 24% increase in tourism income in 2015 compared to 2010.
Jamila Jouini, a member of parliament from the Ennahda party, said the attack “is a big threat to the democratic process if it is confirmed the target was the assembly building.”
A Tunisian security officer claims the attacks unfolded at about noon local time, when gunmen attempted to storm the national assembly building but were met by guards and gunfire. The attackers then fired on several tourist busses bound for the nearby Bardo National Museum, the official said.
Security forces returned fire, sending the gunmen racing into the museum where they it is believed they took hostages, the official said.