Gunmen wearing military uniforms stormed a Tunisian museum Wednesday and slaughtered 19 people in one of the worst terror attacks in the North African country’s recent history.
Reuters reported that 17 foreign tourists, including visitors from Italy, Germany, Poland and Spain, and two Tunisians were killed in the assault. Officials said police forces stormed the museum, a former palace, two hours after the attack and killed two militants while freeing the hostages they had taken.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Tourists Were Attacked While Leaving a Bus
The gunmen stalked the tourists as they arrived in the northern city of Tunis on their way to the Bardo Museum, Tunisian officials said. As the foreigners exited cruise ship buses, the gunmen opened fire, Reuters reported. The tourists ran toward the museum for safety and the attackers chased after them, entering the building.
The terrorists killed eight people as they exited the bus and 10 more after taking hostages inside the museum, according to the New York Times.
Police freed the surviving hostages about two hours after the attack started, according to the Times. Two gunmen were killed along with a police officer, the Times reported.
Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid called the attack a “cowardly terrorist operation.”
2. At Least 1 Gunman May Have Escaped From the Museum
At least one additional gunmen may be at large after the police stormed the museum, the New York Times reports, citing local media reports.
According to those reports, there may be other accomplices as well. Tunisian officials said the investigation is still ongoing.
3. Tunisian Lawmakers Were Discussing an Anti-Terrorism Law on Wednesday
The Parliament is located near the museum and may have been the original target, according to the Times. Lawmakers inside Parliament were discussing an anti-terrorism bill Wednesday as the attacks occurred.
The North African country where the Arab Spring began has cracked down on terrorism. According to the Times, democracy has been more successful in Tunisia than other countries where revolutions occurred in 2011, making it a target for terrorist groups.
4.Islamic State Militants Have Been Blamed for the Attack
Officials told Reuters that Islamic State militants were behind the attack.
The Times reports that Tunisia has been one of the biggest sources of fighters for the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq because new freedoms in Tunisia have made it easier for ISIS to recruit there.
The attack was celebrated on social media by supporters of the Islamic State.
5. Tunisia’s Economy Relies on Foreign Tourists
The museum is known for its collection of ancient Tunisian artifacts and mosaics, as well as collections of historical items from Greece and Rome. The museum is popular among European tourists.
A manager in the tourism industry, Karim Ben Sa’a, told the Guardian:
This is a black day for Tunisia. We are very sad for these tourists. They visit our country and it is so, so, sad to see them die. Our hearts are black.