One police officer dead and several injured near French embassy in Tunisia as two suicide bombers blow themselves up in separate attacks
- WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
- Suicide bomb attack targeted a police car near the old city in capital Tunis
- One police officer killed and at least four other people s were wounded
- Shortly afterwards, a second suicide bomber blew himself up near a police station in al-Gorjani district
- Body parts have been seen strewn in the road next to a damaged vehicle
A police officer has been killed and several others are injured after two suicide bombers blew themselves up in Tunisia’s capital.
The first attack targeted a police patrol in Charles de Gaulle Street near the French embassy in central Tunis.
One police officer was killed and at least one other as well as three civilians were wounded, the Interior Ministry said.
Shortly afterwards, a second suicide bomber blew himself up near a police station in al-Gorjani district. Four people were wounded, the Interior Ministry said.
It was not immediately known who was behind the attacks, which come months before an election and at the peak of a tourist season in which Tunisia is hoping for a record number of visitors.
Separately on Thursday, 92-year-old President Beji Caid Essebsi was taken to a military hospital after suffering a ‘severe health crisis’, the presidency said.
A police officer has been killed and several others are injured after two suicide bombers blew themselves up in Tunisia’s capital near the French embassy
The first attack targeted a police patrol in Charles de Gaulle Street in central Tunis
Tunisian civilians run from the scene of the attack in the Tunisian capital’s main avenue
Heavily armed police cordoned off the locations of the attacks, one of which was about 650ft away from the French embassy.
Reuters witnesses saw people rushing away from the scene, while the body of one suicide bomber lay on the ground.
Ambulance cars arrived. ‘I was shopping with my daughter and we heard a big explosion. We saw the body of the terrorist lying on the ground near a police vehicle after he blew himself up,’ said a man who give his name only as Mohamed.
Interior Ministry spokesman Sofian Zaak said the attackers had not yet been identified, and he called on the public to show strength and not panic.
People appeared to heed that message: Within minutes of the attacks, they could be seen sitting as usual in cafes up and down Habib Bourghiba, the main street.
Tunisian president, 92, hospitalised ‘in severe health crisis’
Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi, 92, a major player since the country’s transition to democracy since 2011, was on Thursday taken to a military hospital after suffering a ‘severe health crisis’, the presidency said.
One of his advisers told Reuters he was in a ‘very critical’ condition but was alive, denying media reports he had died. No more details were immediately available.
Essebsi was hospitalised last week as well, for what the presidency described as non-serious treatment.
Essebsi has been a prominent figure in Tunisia since the overthrow of autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 which set the North African country on a path to democracy, avoiding the more violent upheavals seen in the rest of the region.
Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi, 92, a major player since the country’s transition to democracy since 2011, was on Thursday taken to a military hospital after suffering a ‘severe health crisis’, the presidency said
He led the immediate transition as prime minister in 2011 and was elected president three years later. Essebsi was a senior figure before 2011, having served as foreign minister under state founder Habib Bourguiba and parliamentary speaker under Ben Ali.
He said in June he would not run for a second term in presidential elections this year, despite his party’s calls for him to stand. The party has not identified another candidate yet.
Under a new constitution guaranteeing democratic freedoms, Essebsi has limited powers compared with Ben Ali. His is mainly responsible for foreign and defence policies.
The day-to-day business of government and economic policy is run by Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, in office since 2016. He is also the main contact person for the International Monetary Fund and other donors which have kept Tunisia afloat amid its economic crisis.
Tunisian security forces gather at the site of an attack in the Tunisian capital’s main avenue Habib Bourguiba
Forensic officers have been sent to the scene in the aftermath of the explosion today
An attacker detonated explosives near the French embassy (file picture) shortly before 11am local time, Tunisia’s interior ministry said
In a show of more open defiance, some 300 people gathered on the same street and held up pamphlets saying: ‘We do not fear terror, Tunisia is no place for terrorism.’ They chanted the national anthem and slogans praising the security forces.
Tunisia has been battling militant groups operating in remote areas near the border with Algeria since an uprising overthrew autocratic leader Zine Abidine Ben Ali in 2011. High unemployment has also stoked unrest in recent years.
Last October, a woman blew herself up in the centre of the capital Tunis, wounding 15 people including 10 police officers in an explosion that broke a long period of calm after dozens had died in militant attacks in 2015.
Security has improved since authorities imposed a state of emergency in November 2015 after those attacks – one at a museum in Tunis and another on a beach in Sousse. A third attack targeted presidential guards in the capital. Islamic State claimed responsibility.
The attacks scared off holidaymakers and investors, worsening the country’s economic problems.
The government has imposed tough austerity measures to fulfil the demands of donors, who have helped keep the country afloat. But political infighting has also slowed decision-making and much-needed economic reforms.