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No Irish hurt as Tunisia museum death toll rises to 19

Seventeen of the dead were foreign tourists.

Updated at 6.09pm

A TUNISIAN OFFICIAL has confirmed that 17 tourists and two Tunisians were killed in a shooting attack at a popular museum today.

Polish, Italian, German and Spanish tourists were among the dead, Prime Minister Habib Essid said, adding that two gunmen had been killed.

A Tunisian national and a policeman were also reported dead.

The Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin has told TheJournal.ie that the Irish Embassy in Madrid and Honorary Consul in Tunis are monitoring the situation and providing updates to them.

“We are currently not aware of any Irish citizens involved in the incident at this time,” they said in a statement.

Shooting 

Essid said the gunmen, dressed in military uniforms, opened fire on the tourists as they were disembarking from a bus and chased them inside the museum.

Health Minister Said Aidi told reporters that 38 others had been wounded in the attack, including citizens of France, South Africa, Poland, Italy and Japan.

Tunisia Attack Tourists and visitors line up before being evacuated Source: AP/Press Association Images

The attack appeared to be the worst on foreigners in Tunisia since an Al-Qaeda suicide bombing on a synagogue killed 14 Germans, two French and five Tunisians on the island of Djerba in 2002.

Some officials, including French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, had said hostages were taken at the museum but this was not confirmed by Tunisian authorities.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack but Tunisia – the birthplace of the Arab Spring revolutionary movement – has struggled to tackle a rise in attacks from Islamist extremists.

Interior ministry spokesman Mohamed Ali Aroui told reporters that “two or more terrorists armed with Kalashnikovs” had targeted the Bardo National Museum next to the Tunisian parliament.

Aroui said about 100 tourists had been inside the museum at the time of the attack.

He said “anti-terrorist units” had entered the museum but refused to confirm reports of a hostage taking.

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TUNISIA Shooting Source: PA Graphics

The Bardo National Museum, a famed repository of ancient artefacts, is next door to Tunisia’s parliament, where work was suspended during the attack.

An Islamist lawmaker, Monia Brahim, told AFP that gunfire from the initial assault prompted parliamentary committees to suspend their meetings as lawmakers were ordered to assemble in the main chamber.

“There was enormous panic,” another lawmaker, Sayida Ounissi, wrote on Twitter, saying the attack took place during hearings on Tunisia’s anti-terrorism law.

Tunisia has seen an upsurge in Islamist extremism since the 2011 revolution that ousted longtime strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Dozens of police and military personnel have been killed or wounded in attacks blamed on Islamist militants.

Condemned

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan described today’s incident as a “vicious mass killing”.

“This attack is a deliberate attempt to undermine Tunisia’s achievements since 2011 in delivering a democratic State, which reflects the aspirations and rights of all its citizens,” he added in a statement offering his sympathies to the people of Tunisia. 

Includes reporting from Associated Press.

About the author:

Daragh Brophy

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