• Attack on Bardo Museum kills 19, of which 17 are foreign tourists
  • President Essebsi promises to wipe out terrorism, commits more funds to army
  • Violence in Libya destabilising Tunisia

Tunisia’s President Beji Caid Essebsi has declared war on terrorism, promising to pursue “monstrous minorities without mercy”.

His speech came after armed men took dozens of visitors hostage at the Bardo Museum on 18 March. They killed 19 people, including five Japanese, four Italians and eight other tourists. Two Tunisians were also killed, one of them a member of the security forces.

Among the 48 injured are 12 Italians, 11 Polish and six Tunisians, according to the Health Ministry.

Two gunmen were killed in the attack, while others escaped and are being hunted by security forces.

Essebsi committed more funds and equipment to the army and security forces to improve efficiency, and declared his full support for the army, Interior Ministry and Justice Ministry.

He continued that Tunisia would remain the same and the attacks did not threaten democracy.

World leaders have expressed their support and solidarity with Tunisia.

Large rallies against terrorism took place in central Tunis following the attack, with protestors lighting candles in solidarity.

The Tunisian Interior Minister Nejem Gharsalli gave a press statement saying the attacks had targeted Tunisia’s tourist industry and economy.

It is unclear whether the attackers belonged to any extremist groups, but the Tunisian security forces have been fighting a guerilla war on the Algerian border since 2013.

The attack began as the Assembly of People’s Representatives (ARP) was debating an anti-terrorism law in the neighbouring building. Political consensus in Tunisia already saw this as the highest priority following successful elections in 2014.

Bombing attempts against security forces and tourism targets since 2013 have all failed.

The security forces have discovered numerous attempts to smuggle arms over the Libyan border, which is highly porous.

Analysts see the spiraling violence in Libya as the biggest threat to stability in Tunisia.

“The Tunisian government almost certainly does not have the capability to control the border with Libya. Moreover, the threat from Islamic State supporters in western Libya is likely to grow,” said Firas Abi Ali, Country Risk analyst at UK-based IHS. “If these groups are weakened, they are likely to see Tunisia as a safe area to which to escape; if they grow stronger, they would be increasingly likely to see Tunisia as their next logical target.”

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