By Walid Shoebat
ISIS terrorists stormed into Bardo Museum in Tunisia and killed 21 including 19 tourists and two Tunisians.
While western media await to see who claimed responsibility, websites associated with ISIS admitted responsibility stating that they “had detained a number of tourists, the Historical Museum, “Pardo” in Tunis in the afternoon” Al-Hadath, a middle east news source reported and ISIS affiliates tweeted:
It is noteworthy that a battalion of Okba Ibn Nafi partnering with Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia, pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of ISIS and threatened earlier to carry out attacks against the ruling regime in Tunisia, also claimed responsibility for the assassination of Chokri Belaid opposition leader Tunisia, last year.
The terrorist attack (targeted) the Bardo Museum by two or more terrorists armed with Kalashnikovs.
The Tunisian prime minister later said 19 people had been killed in the attack, including two foreign tourists. But other sources have the number as 21.
People run for cover as security forces take aim (pixel)
Beji Caid Essebsi, the Tunisian president, was to make a public statement to the nation, Moez Sinaoui, spokesman, told AFP.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack on the Bardo National Museum, a famed repository of ancient artefacts.
People being held hostage by gunmen in the Bardo museum (Twitter)
But Tunisia has been struggling to tackle a rise in attacks from Islamist extremists.
An AFP photographer reported hearing shots fired neared the parliament and museum and said police had rushed reinforcements to the area.
Monia Brahim, an Islamist politician, told AFP the gunfire prompted parliamentary committees to suspend their meetings as politicians were ordered to assemble in the main chamber.
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.
An army offensive against the jihadists, who are linked to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, has been underway since 2012 but the ground and air campaign has failed to eliminate them.
The country is also fighting against the radicalisation of Muslim youth, with authorities saying as many as 3,000 Tunisians have gone to Iraq and Syria to fight in jihadist ranks, including Islamic State.
Essebsi said the government’s “top priority” is “providing security and the battle against terrorism” after it took office last month following Tunisia’s first free elections.
Tunisia became the birthplace of the Arab Spring with its overthrow of Ben Ali and, despite the continued unrest, has taken pride in forming a stable and democratic government.
Security forces secure the area around the Bardo museum (AFP/Getty Images)
The country is hoping to rebuild its once-burgeoning tourism industry, which is struggling to recover from the effects of the 2011 revolution.
The Bardo museum, renowned for its exceptional collection of ancient mosaics, is a significant draw and opened a new wing in 2012 following a major facelift.
It boasts objects from prehistory, the Phoenician period and Punic and Numidian times, as well as Roman, Christian and Islamic artifacts.
Its curator had described it as “the flagship of (Tunisia’s) heritage”.
Housed in a former palace dating from the 19th century, the museum greeted hundreds of thousands of visitors every year before the revolution. In 2011 the number dropped to about 100,000 but has been recovering.
“With the attack that has struck Tunis today, the Daesh terrorist organisation is once again targeting the countries and peoples of theMediterranean region,” she said in a statement, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.
“This strengthens our determination to cooperate more closely with our partners to confront the terrorist threat,” she said. “The EU is determined to mobilize all the tools it has to fully support Tunisia in the fight against terrorism and reforming the security sector.”