Wed, Mar 25, 2015 - Page 6 News List

Tunisian PM fires six police officials

‘SECURITY FAILURES’:Prime Minister Habib Essid’s spokesman Mofdi Mssedi said that the nation’s leader visited Bardo Museum on Sunday before dismissing the commanders

Reuters, TUNIS

A police officer stands guard at a security checkpoint in front of the National Bardo Museum in Tunis on Monday.

Photo: AFP

Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid on Monday fired six police commanders, including the head of tourist security, after a militant attack at the National Bardo Museum on Wednesday last week in which 20 foreign visitors were killed.

Essid’s spokesman Mofdi Mssedi said the six also included an intelligence brigade chief, the Tunis district police chief, the traffic police commander, a Bardo Museum security chief and a commander for the capital’s Sidi Bachir District.

“Prime Minister Habib Essid visited the Bardo Museum yesterday [Sunday] and took note of several security failures there,” Mssedi said.

Militant gunmen killed 20 foreign tourists, including Japanese, Polish, Italian and Spanish visitors, as they got off buses at the Bardo Museum, inside the parliament compound that is normally heavily guarded.

It was the worst attack in more than a decade in Tunisia, testing the North African nation’s young democracy four years after the revolt that overthrew autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and opened the way for free elections.

One police officer working at the museum was arrested for abandoning his post during the attack, local radio and media reported. Officials did not immediately confirm the arrest.

Japanese Parliamentary Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Kazuyuki Nakane visited Tunisia on Monday to discuss the case with Tunisian Minister of Foreign Affairs Taieb Baccouche.

“We gave our condolences for the families of the Japanese victims,” Baccouche told reporters outside the Japanese embassy in Tunis.

Foreign dignitaries have been invited to Tunis on Sunday to participate in a march against terrorism in the same way that France brought world leaders to Paris after the attacks on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January.

Another demonstration was due to take place in Tunis yesterday when the Bardo Museum was scheduled to reopen.

Two gunmen were shot dead at the scene in Tunis and authorities say they are looking for a third suspect. They have so far arrested more than 20 people, 10 of whom officials believe were directly involved in the attack. Some had recently returned from fighting for Islamis militant groups in Syria, Iraq and Libya.

Militants belonging to the Islamic State group, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, fighting in Iraq and Syria claimed that their supporters carried out the attack although a local al-Qaeda affiliated group known as Okba Ibn Nafaa has also published details and comments on the assault.

Tunisia has been largely spared the violent aftermath of the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011, with secular and Islamic parties overcoming their divisions to compromise, approve a new constitution and hold free elections.

Hardline Islamic groups also emerged after the revolt against Ben Ali swept away his one-party rule. Since then security forces have been caught up in a growing battle with militants, some of whom are returning from training and fighting overseas.

Authorities said that the two gunmen killed in the Bardo attack had trained in jihadi camps in Libya after they were radicalized in local mosques by militant recruiters. More than 3,000 Tunisians left to fight in Syria and Iraq, and hundreds have returned, creating a security risk for authorities.

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