At least 19 people, among them 17 foreigners, were killed when gunmen attacked the National Bardo Museum, in the capital Tunis.
German, Italian, Spanish and Polish tourists were among the dead, in addition to two Tunisians. Another 22 people were injured in the attack. Two gunmen were later killed by security forces.
The quick moving story was covered by journalists and netizens online, as more details emerged. According to news reports, the attack happened at around 12.30pm, during peak visiting hours, when the first gun shots were heard. Eight people were first killed as they got off a bus to visit the museum and another 10 were killed after being taken hostage, said an Interior Ministry spokesman.
The attack left Tunisians in shock.
Cairo-based journalist Tamer El-Ghobashy says the initial target of the attack was the parliament building, a few metres away. He tweets:
Security sources say initial target of attack was Parliament in Tunis. Gunmen attacked tourist buses as guards thwarted them at Assembly
— Tamer El-Ghobashy (@TamerELG) March 18, 2015
The parliament was locked down, while in session in a parliamentary hearing about an anti-terrorism law. On Facebook, Christine Patre shares this video showing the MPs singing the Tunisian national anthem during the lock down:Petre writes:
Words can’t express how sad this is. This was a symbolic attack against democracy (the Parliament) and the economy (the touristic hotspot that is Bardo). But here’s a snippet from today to show you the Tunisia I know, the Tunisians, I know.
After the attack on the Bardo museum, which is situated next door to the Parliament, some of the Parliamentarians at the assembly, who were under an hour long lock-down before being evacuated, began to sing the national anthem and held a speech in defiance to terrorism. The sentiment was clear: “We will continue to fight terrorism!”
A parliamentary hearing about the anti-terrorism law was due to be held today, whether this was linked or not..
Tunisian Rabii Kalboussi describes the attack as the worst to grip the country in recent years.
The attack is the worst in #Tunisia modern history after the 2002 attack on the Ghriba synagogue in the touristy island of Djerba
— Rabiî Kalboussi (@Rabii_K) March 18, 2015
And El-Ghobashy dishes out some praise to the Tunisian authorities:
The Tunisia attack news is moving quickly, but confirmation of facts by highest level of government there is impressive. — Tamer El-Ghobashy (@TamerELG) March 18, 2015
As night fell on the shocked Tunisian capital, thousands of people converged to Habib Bourguiba Avenue to protest the attack.
Protesters are here chanting “Tunisia is free.” In another video, the protesters are chanting: “With our souls, with our blood, we sacrifice for the martyrs.”
And while no group is yet to claim responsibility for the attack, supporters of the ISIS are claiming it as their own. J. M. Berger tweets to his 21.1K followers:
ISIS Twitter buzzing over Tunisia, but note they have lately adopted an explicitly articulated strategy of “when in doubt, assume it's us”
— J.M. Berger (@intelwire) March 18, 2015