Armed individuals stormed Tunisia’s National Bardo Museum on March 18, indiscriminately shooting the people inside.
The rampage that lasted a few minutes left 19 people dead, 17 of them being foreign tourists and 2 Tunisian locals. Tunisia was one of the rare countries in the region which had gone through a rather quite transition among the Arab states and the only non-violent outcome of the Arab Spring. Yet, despite the relative tranquility, the country is as much insecure against terrorism as any other country in North Africa and Middle East.
The authorities confirmed that among the killed were citizens of Japan, Italy, Spain, Poland, France, Colombia and Tunisia. The militants stormed the museum premises located inside the heavily guarded parliament compound around noon. After minutes of turmoil, they took several hostages. Tunisian security forces entered the building only two hours later engaging the terrorists in a gunfire. Two terrorists were killed in the skirmish and one police officer died. The hostages were freed.
Tunisia’s economy is based on tourism, mostly from European countries. Any terrorist attack and political instability may undermine its major source of income. Militant attacks are seeking to destabilize the political situation and cause an economic slowdown, a situation which would eventually lead to a breeding ground for Islamic propaganda and draft. As many as 3,000 Tunisians are believed to have been fighting on the side of ISIS since the so-called Islamic state declared a religious Jihad against the secular countries in the region, including Syria and Iraq where the major battles continue.
The museum is also known for its rare collection of ancient Tunisian artifacts and mosaics from Rome and Greece. ISIS had been known for its intolerance towards the historical artifacts, especially ones from Western cultures.
Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the deadly attack today, extending “our heartfelt sympathy to the victims’ families and loved ones.”
Kerry said that “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.”