At least 19 people, including 17 foreign foreign tourists, were killed in an attack on the Bardo Museum in Tunis on Wednesday, according to the interior ministry. At least 22 were injured in the attack.
At least two gunmen wearing military uniforms attacked the museum around 12:30pm local time.
Prime Minister Habib Essid said that Polish, Italian, Spanish and German tourists were among the dead. Colombia’s President said that two Colombians had died in the attack.
In an interview with France 24, Tunisia’s President Beju Caid Essebsi said “Salafist jihadists” were to blame for the attack in the capital and warned of “warned of jihadist “sleeper cells in the country.
Prime Minister Essig said the event was a critical moment and a defaming moment in Tunisia. “All Tunisians should be united after this attack which was aimed at destroying the Tunisian economy,” he said.
Two gunmen and a policeman were killed in the attack but Essid said that two or three gunmen could still be at large. A manhunt is underway to find possible accomplices to the attack.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls condemned the attack. “We are condemning this terrorist attack in the strongest terms,” he said in Brussels. “We are very alert about how the situation is evolving.”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the attack and said “the United States stands with the Tunisian people at this difficult time and continues to support the Tunisian government’s efforts to advance a secure, prosperous, and democratic Tunisia.”
Bardo Museum is located near Parliament in Tunis and reports say that the building had been evacuated. Parliament had been debating anti-terror legislation at the time of the attack.
Tunisia had been relatively stable and was seen by many as a success story in otherwise chaotic and turbulent region. Libya, to the east, is on the brink of civil war, with two self-declared governments and a growing Islamic State presence.
Despite its success, several militant groups have emerged since the Arab Spring uprising, including Ansar al Sharia. An attack in September 2012 on the U.S. Embassy in Tunis damaged the embassy grounds as well as an adjoining American school.
Tunisian authorities estimate that at least 3,000 of its citizens have joined militant groups in Iraq and Syria. The fear has been that these individuals could return to Tunisia and launch attacks at home.
No group has claimed resolubility for the attack on the Bardo Museum.