Tunisia’s prime minister says 17 tourists have been killed following a siege by two armed militants at a museum in the capital Tunis. Prime Minister Habib Essid said the standoff, in which a policeman and a Tunisian also lost their lives, was over.
The approximately three-hour attack and hostage siege took place at the Bardo Museum in the country’s capital. Seventeen tourists lost their lives, while one Tunisian, believed to be a janitor working in the museum, and a policemen were also killed. The crisis concluded when security forces stormed the building – next to the Tunisian parliament – and killed the two gunmen.
#breaking #tunisia – operation ended with both terrorists dead according to Tunisian National tv
— Sergio Altuna (@wellesbien) March 18, 2015
Prime Minister Essid was also able to confirm that Italian, German, Polish and Spanish tourists were amongst those killed in the attack on the museum according to Reuters. He also added that another 22 tourists were injured as well as two Tunisian men.
The Tunisian Prime Minister also added that the security forces are still looking for two or three people who may have helped the gunmen.
Via @RadioMosaiqueFM: Militants disguised as soldiers went through the Parliament to the Bardo museum & held tourists as hostages#Tunisia
— Farah Samti (@Farah_SamT) March 18, 2015
Ahmad Fadli, who witnessed the events unfolding and is a correspondent for the Al-Tunisia newspaper, said the militants were wearing soldiers uniforms.
“I was situated exactly opposite the Bardo Museum. A few people in military uniforms returned towards the museum and started shooting and took hostages,” Fadli said.
“There are at least two gunmen, though there maybe more. The two were seen with Kalashnikov rifles rushing into the building,” the Tunisian journalist added.
Poland’s Foreign Ministry had earlier said that three Polish nationals had been injured in the attack. Meanwhile, Al Arabiya said eight wounded people have been taken out of the building.
The militants had entered the museum through the country’s parliament in Tunis, which was also in session. MPs managed to reach safety and the building was evacuated as a precaution. Both the parliament and the museum are located in Bardo Palace.
Around 200 people were believed to have been in the museum when the gunmen struck. Local reports said that 160 tourists were rescued from the building via a back door, while around 20 to 30 were still in the building as the siege continued.
A picture on Facebook taken during the hostage crisis showed what seemed to be a security officer, who was escorting the museum visitors to safety. There were a number of children present, as the attack occurred during a Tunisian school holiday.
The French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said that his country would be standing by the Tunisian government in the wake of the tragedy, which killed 19 people.
“We are condemning this terrorist attack in the strongest terms,” Valls said speaking after a meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels.
“We are standing by the Tunisian government. We are very alert about how the situation is evolving,” he added, according to Reuters.
The Bardo Museum has a major collection of Roman mosaics and other antiquities from ancient Greece and North Africa. It was the second museum to be founded in Africa and traces the history of Tunisia over thousands of years, and through numerous civilizations.