A Russian tourist is reportedly among those injured after gunmen wearing military uniforms stormed Tunisia’s national museum on Wednesday, killing at least 17 people
(Reuters) – Five Japanese as well as visitors from Italy, Poland and Spain were among the dead in the noon assault on Bardo museum inside the heavily guarded parliament compound in central Tunis, Prime Minister Habib Essid said Wednesday.
“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 driver of a tourist coach told journalists at the scene.
While Reuters reported that 17 people had been killed in the attack, Tunisian Health Ministry adviser Samar Sammoud was cited by radio station Mozaique.fm as saying 21 people had lost their lives.
A Russian tourist, 12 Italians and 11 Polish citizens were amongst the 48 people injured, Sammoud added.
During the attack, scores of visitors fled into the museum and the militants — who authorities did not immediately link to any extremist group — took hostages inside, officials said. Security forces entered around two hours later, killed two militants and freed the captives, a government spokesman said. A police officer died in the operation.
The attack on such a high-profile target is a blow for the small North African country that relies heavily on European tourism and has mostly avoided major militant violence since its 2011 uprising to oust autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.