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At Least 19 Dead in Museum Attack in Tunisia
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Tourists were targeted in a terrorist attack in Tunisia on Wednesday.

Summary: Terrorists targeted a popular museum in Tunisia’s capital on Wednesday, killing at least 19 and injuring dozens more.

Tunisia’s Prime Minister, Habib Essid, called an attack on tourists in a museum in the nation’s capital a “cowardly” terrorist attack. According to CNN, gunmen entered the Bardo Museum in Tunis and killed 17 tourists, as well as two others, one of whom was a security officer.

  
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Tunisian security killed two of the attackers, but three others remain on the loose. “It’s a cowardly attack mainly targeting the economy of Tunisia. We should unite to defend our country,” the Prime Minister declared. According to Reuters, a tourist bus driver said, “They just started opening fire on the tourists as they were getting out of the buses … I couldn’t see anything except blood and the dead.”

The museum is located in a popular tourist spot in the capital, close to the country’s parliament. According to BBC, deputies in the parliamentary building were discussing legislation on anti-terrorism.

Jordan recently executed two ISIS jihadists after the group executed one of Jordan’s pilots.

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The MSC Splendida and the Costa Fascinosa were at least two of the cruise ships that were docked in Tunis at the time of the attacks. Both cruises had scheduled passenger tours of the museum as well. The MSC Splendida’s departure from the port may be delayed, but the Costa Fascinosa will continue on to Spain and France before docking in Italy at the end of the cruise.

It is not yet known of any cruise passengers were among the dead. Essid did comment that Italian, German, Polish, and Spanish tourists were killed. Another 20 tourists, as well as two Tunisians, were injured in the attack. Essid hypothesized that by going after tourists, the terrorists wanted to hurt the country’s economy.



Interior Ministry spokesman Mohamed Ali Aroui said that the terrorists were Islamic during an address on national radio.

Although Tunisia has not experienced the same levels of violence that other countries in close proximity have, it has had its troubles. Its government has suffered several political assassinations, and has been fighting a jihadist group in the Chaambi Mountains.

ISIS could cause deadly power blackouts in the United States.

In February, the Interior Ministry reported that 100 alleged extremists were arrested, and released a video showing that the group collected methods to make explosives and possessed a picture of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, an ISIS leader.

It is estimated that around 3,000 Tunisians have gone to Syria and Iraq to train as jihadists. This number is the highest of any country that has had citizens leave to become jihadists, according to London’s International Centre for the Study of Radicalization.

Rick Francona, a former U.S. Air Force intelligence officer and a CNN military analyst, said, “There are hundreds that have returned from the battlefield, ye we haven’t seen this kind of activity in Tunisia yet. I think it was only a matter of time. And today was the day.”

Citizens and residents in the area tweeted photos that showed security in black helmets, masks and bulletproof vests with their weapons drawn in the museum area. A large security barricade was set up around the museum.

The museum, which is located inside a 19th century palace, has been called “a jewel of Tunisian heritage.” It contains Tunisian pieces that commemorate the art, culture, and history of the country. It also includes several mosaics, including one of the poet Virgil.

The museum is next door to the building where Tunisia’s parliament is located. Just after noon, parliament was evacuated.

A Tunisian lawmaker, Sabrine Ghoubatini, said that an administrator interrupted a meeting and told everyone “to lay down on the ground because there was an exchange of fire between terrorists and police. So we laid down on the ground, and they began to evacuate us.” Ghoubatini noted that the situation was “confused.”

Although no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, it came just a few days after a Tunisian jihadist sent a tweet that a pledge of loyalty to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was imminent.

In January, ISIS attacked the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris.

In the tweet, the jihadi claimed to be a member of Jund al-Khilafah, a Tunisian group that, in December, pledged its allegiance to ISIS. The post appeared after an ISIS fighter in Syria released a video, asking why jihadis in Tunisia had not yet pleaded their loyalty.

CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank said, “This raises the possibility that the museum attack could be ISIS’s debut on the Tunisian stage, timed to precede a pledge of allegiance from Tunisian jihadis for maximum impact.”

Tunisia is the home of Arab Spring, the anti-government protests that triggered revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa beginning at the end of 2010. A 26-year-old man set himself ablaze in front of a Tunisian government building after police confiscated his vegetable cart, setting off the protests.

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Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, the president at the time, fled with his family the following month. In October 2011, the country held its first free elections in modern history, and selected a new parliament.

Although many countries such as Libya, Syria, and Egypt have witnessed much violence, Tunisia has been relatively calm. The Economist wrote, “The idealism engendered by the Arab spring has mostly sunk in bloodshed and extremism, with a shining exception: Tunisia…Its economy is struggling and its polity is fragile; but Tunisia’s pragmatism and moderation have nurtured hope in a wretched region and a troubled world.”

The country held its first elections since 1956 in October of 2011. Around 60 political parties and thousands of candidates fought for seats in the new Constitutional Assembly. The Islamist Ennahda party, a moderate group, won the majority. Moncef Marzouki was elected president.

Some media freedoms were limited over the next couple of years,and many criticized the criminalization of blasphemy. Two opposition leaders were assassinated in 2013.

A new constitution was set in place in 2014. Beji Caid Essebsi defeated outgoing President Marzouki that December in a runoff election, winning 55% of the vote. The event was seen as a milestone in the country’s history.

Tunisia has been largely troubled by youth unemployment. Those who cannot find jobs are turning to ISIS and al Qaeda as a way of life. Until Wednesday’s attack, the recruits have mainly fought away from their home country. However, experts feel that by fighting in Tunisia, the cause will be damaged by both damaging the economy and alienating their fellow citizens.

Mubin Shaikh, a former undercover counterterrorism operative, said, “They’re already isolated and marginalized, and they further isolate and marginalize themselves by these actions…This will just further isolate and alienate these groups from the rest of the public.”

Phillip Mudd, a former CIA counterterrorism officer, said, “This tragedy is already done. The next question is: Can you prevent the next one?”

Source: CNN

Photo credit: ABC News



 

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