Terror attack is setback for tourism in Tunisia

Seventeen tourists among those killed in Tunis terror attack
Seventeen tourists were among those killed in a terror attack that unfolded yesterday at a museum in central Tunis, including visitors from Japan, Italy, Australia, France, Spain, Poland and Colombia, according to officials. Two Tunisians including a police officer were also killed. More than 40 were injured, including tourists and Tunisians.
Security forces killed two gunmen but three accomplices are said to still be on the loose. No group has claimed responsibility but the attack is a blow to the tourist industry in Tunisia, which had been seen as a leading light in the return to democracy after the Arab Spring revolts.
Gunshots were heard in the area around 12:30, just as buses from cruise ships were unloading hundreds of tourists. Most of the crowds escaped as military personnel and helicopters swooped on the scene.
Four hours after the assault began, security forces stormed the National Bardo Museum, situated close to the parliament building, in an effort to rescue hostages trapped inside. At this point the death toll more than doubled from an initial nine people reported killed, raising questions about how they died.
Costa Crociere posted a statement this morning saying that the Costa Fascinosa had left port early on Thursday missing 13 passengers, adding that “12 Costa Care Team members and two Costa headquarters directors are already operative in Tunis to liaise with the local authorities and to ensure the appropriate assistance is granted.”
MSC Cruises issued a statement saying: “One of our ships, MSC Splendida, was calling the port of La Goulette, Tunis with 3,714 guests and 1,267 crew members aboard. At the time of the events, some of MSC Splendida guests were on shore excursions, including to the Bardo National Museum. Consequently, all MSC Cruises coaches on tour at the time of the events were immediately ordered back to the port and all other excursions and on the ground activities were immediately suspended. At this time, the return of passengers to the ship is still undergoing.”
As darkness fell last night, hundreds of Tunisians converged on the area in a vigil against terrorism. Prime Minister Habib Essid condemned the attack, saying: “We will show no compassion and no mercy in defending our country.”
Despite its progress since the Arab Spring, Tunisia is one of the biggest sources of foreign fighters joining the Islamic State. On social media, IS applauded the killings of the tourists.
The Bardo houses many antiquities including mosaics from the Roman and Carthaginian era and Phoenician and Byzantine ceramics and jewellery. The attack is the deadliest in Tunisia since 2002, when a truck filled with propane was blown up outside a synagogue killing 21 people, including European tourists.
New York Times / BBC / TTG Nordic
[pictured: Interior of Bardo National Museum; photo by Nicolas de Camaret / Flickr]