• Tunis, 18 March 2015 – Five gunmen wearing military uniforms stormed Tunisia’s Bardo national museum, killing 19 people (17 foreign tourists and 2 Tunisians) today, in one of the worst militant attacks since 2002. Tunisia had largely escaped the region’s Arab Spring turmoil.
European visitors from Italy, Germany, Poland and Spain were among the dead in the noon assault on Bardo museum inside the heavily guarded Parliament compound in central Tunis, Prime Minister Habib Essid said.
“They just started opening fire on the tourists as they were getting out of the buses … I couldn’t see anything except blood and the dead,” the driver of a tourist coach told journalists at the scene.
Scores of visitors fled into the museum and the terrorists took hostages inside, government officials said. Tunisian security forces entered the building, a former palace, around two hours later, killed two militants and freed the captives, but a police officer died during the assault.
President Beji Caid Essebsi said that “The authorities have taken all measures to ensure that such things don’t happen again”. French President François Hollande expressed French “solidarity” with Tunisia and US Secretary of State John Kerry denounced the “wanton violence”. Washington “stands with the Tunisian people at this difficult time and continues to support the Tunisian government’s efforts to advance a secure, prosperous and democratic Tunisia”. President Barack Obama is pledging close counterterrorism cooperation with Tunisia. He spoke by phone on Thursday with Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi, and offered his condolences, sympathy and support. The White House says Obama offered to keep providing assistance to Tunisia as the investigation proceeds.
• Sanaa, 20 March 2015 – Suicide bombers have attacked two mosques in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, killing at least 137 people and wounding more than 350, reports say. Worshippers were attending noon prayers at the Badr and al-Hashoosh mosques when at least four attackers struck.
Both mosques were hit by two bombers each using similar tactics: one attacked detonated his explosives inside the building while the second waited outside for people to flee before blowing himself up. “The heads, legs and arms of the dead people were scattered on the floor of the mosque […] Blood is running like a river” said one witness. “I found myself sleeping in a lake of blood”.
Islamic State (IS) aka ISIS or DAESH, which set up a branch in Yemen in November, said it was behind the attacks in Tunis and Sanaa, but AQAP (al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) might be responsible.
The White House today condemned the double suicide bombing on Yemeni mosques. Spokesman Josh Earnest said: “We express our condolences to the families of the victims, we deplore the brutality of the terrorists who perpetrated today’s unprovoked attack on Yemeni citizens, who were peacefully engaged in Friday prayers.”