Twin attacks target police in Tunis; IS takes responsibility
TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Twin suicide bombings targeting security forces struck Tunisia’s capital on Thursday, killing a patrol officer and injuring at least eight people.
Tunisia has been struck repeatedly by terror attacks, threatening the country’s relative political stability in the region. Thursday’s bombings came as the country’s 92-year-old president, who had been released from a brief hospitalization less than a week ago, was rushed again to the hospital after being struck with a “serious illness.”
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for Thursday’s attacks through its Aamaq news agency. It was unclear whether it was an opportunistic claim.
One attacker detonated explosives in a busy commercial district near the French embassy shortly before 11 a.m., apparently targeting a police patrol. One of the officers died from his injuries, and another was injured along with three bystanders.
At nearly the same time, a second bomber struck at an entrance to the anti-terrorism brigade on the outskirts of the city. Four officers were hospitalized with injuries.
The Islamic State group was behind Tunisia’s deadliest extremist attacks, which struck at the heart of Tunisia’s tourism sector in 2015. One at the Bardo Museum in Tunis killed 22 people, and another three months later killed 38 people in the coastal city of Sousse.
In the aftermath, travel agencies pulled out and foreign governments issued warnings for citizens planning to go to Tunisia. Tourism has partially bounced back since Tunisia’s government increased security around popular destinations.
Tourism Minister Rene Trabelsi sought to reassure visitors after Thursday’s bombings, saying police were investigating aggressively.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Trabelsi said he did not think the first attack was tied to the French Embassy nearby but had targeted Tunisian police.
“This attack against national security agents...has nothing to do with tourists,” he said.
The minister said he had a “message to tourists: have a good holiday and come to Tunisia. Tunisia is a country that fights these terrorists.”
The U.S. State Department currently lists Tunisia at the same risk level as France in terms of danger for travelers.
Until Thursday, it had been a while since Tunisia had an episode of serious violence. A female suicide bomber struck the center of Tunis in October, killing only herself.
Mehdi el Arem in Tunis, Lori Hinnant and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed.