Tunisia: Alleged extremist stabs 2 officers near Parliament
TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Authorities said a suspected Islamic extremist stabbed two police officers Wednesday near the headquarters of Tunisia’s Parliament, an unusually bold attack that rattled the capital.
The alleged attacker, a 25-year-old whom authorities said was known to them for radicalism, was quickly arrested, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
The stabbing occurred near the country’s leading museums, the Bardo, itself the location of one of Tunisia’s deadliest terror attacks. Two extremists trained in Libya gunned down tourists at the museum in 2015.
One of the officers was in intensive care after being stabbed in the neck, the Interior Ministry said. The other rushed to his aid and was stabbed in the forehead, although the injury was not severe, the ministry said.
Parliament was not in full session at the time of the attack, but some committee meetings were underway.
Authorities said the suspect was from the working class Ettadhamen neighborhood of Tunis. A preliminary investigation revealed he was an adherent of an ideology that regards law enforcement officers as despots and killing them as a form of jihad, the ministry statement said.
Police officer Jamal Jarboui told reporters the suspect showed no signs of regret during an interrogation and told investigators he was ready to kill any police officer he encountered.
Security reinforcements rushed to the site of the attack in a western suburb of Tunis and cordoned off the area. A second suspect also was arrested there, according to Mohamed Ali Abidi of the Tunis Security Center.
Radio Mosaique reported that the main suspect’s sister has worked at Parliament since 2015.
Parliament president Mohamed Ennaceur said the attack reinforced the need for a proposed law that would allow police officers to carry weapons even when they are off-duty.
“We must protect security forces but also take into account human rights,” he said.
Civic groups have raised concerns about the bill, recalling the more than two decades that Tunisia was governed as a police state where dissent was stifled through a powerful security apparatus.
Lawmaker Ammar Arosia said the government should come up with a more comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy.
“Those who want to fight terrorism must fight poverty and marginalization, and especially resist the despair and the closed horizons in front of young people,” Arosia said.
Tunisia has struggled with Islamic extremism since protesters overthrew their longtime authoritarian leader in 2011 and established a fragile democracy. Deadly attacks by Islamic radicals killed dozens at the Bardo and at a beach resort in 2015.
Extremists linked to al-Qaida, and later to the Islamic State group, have targeted soldiers and police in other regions of Tunisia, notably in the Kasserine mountains near the Algerian border. But it is rare for them to target police around the capital.
This version has been corrected to show the neighborhood where the suspect is from is Ettadhamen, not Ettadhamon.