At least 19 individuals are dead and dozens more injured following a Tunisia museum attack on March 18. Tunisia’s Prime Minister Habib Essid confirmed 17 foreigners and two Tunisians perished in the attack, which was first noticed around 12:30 p.m. local time when gunshots were fired, according to The ew York Times. Though two gunmen were taken out by local security forces, officials are looking for a third suspect who reportedly fled the scene.
The Bardo Museum in Tunis was the site of the attack, and officials are concerned that the intended target was the nearby Parliament building. Once authorities were informed of the attack, Parliament and other local buildings were evacuated as a precaution. An area highly populated by tourists, Tunis is home to nearly 700,000 residents and attracts thousands more each year.
Known as one of the busiest destinations in Tunis, the Bardo Museum is a 19th-century palace that has been transformed into a home for Roman antiquities and mosaics. A highly unlikely location for a terrorist attack, the Bardo Museum hasn’t seen this level of violence since the 2010 Arab Spring during which a Tunisian set himself ablaze in protest of local government, CNN reports.
Suspicions about the Tunisia museum attack’s motivation center on ISIS, an Islamic state militant group, due to recently published social media posts citing political unrest. According to experts, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, an ISIS leader, may be indirectly responsible for the attacks, as the threat may have been a sign of allegiance to the group. Paul Cruickshank, a CNN terrorism analyst, was quoted as saying, “This raises the possibility that the museum attack could be ISIS’ debut on the Tunisian stage, timed to precede a pledge of allegiance from Tunisian jihadis for maximum impact.”
Prime Minister Habib Essid isn’t taking any chances, however. When interviewed about the attack, Essid stated, “It’s a cowardly attack mainly targeting the economy of Tunisia. We should unite to defend our country.” Thus far, Essid has not made public his strategies to combat future terrorist attacks in the area, but sources familiar with the area believe an uprising in Tunisia has been on the horizon for quite some time.
CNN military analyst Rick Francona commented on the Tunisia museum attack by saying, “There are hundreds that have returned from the battlefields, but we haven’t seen this kind of activity in Tunisia yet. I think it was only a matter of time. And today was the day.” As reported by Inquisitr, more than 3,000 Tunisians have thus far pledged allegiance to ISIS.