After two separate attacks on tourists, Tunisia has declared a state of emergency. A terrorist attack at the National Bardo Museum in March killed 22 people, mostly tourists. Last week, 38 tourists were killed by gunmen at a beach resort in Sousse. Thirty of those victims were British, making it the deadliest terror incident involving the United Kingdom since the 7/7 Underground bombings. The gunman in the beach resort shootings was killed by police; two of the attackers in the National Bardo Museum shootings were killed, while a third is believed to be still at large.
President Beji Caid Essebsi said that the state of emergency was a necessary defense measure.
“Tunisia faces a very serious danger and it should take any possible measures to maintain security and safety,” said the president. “If attacks like Sousse happen again, the country will collapse.”
He blamed the situation on both lack of security in Libya and on lack of resolve by the international community in fighting the Islamic State group, commonly known as ISIS. ISIS claimed responsibility for both attacks, although Tunisian authorities say the first attack was carried out by an al-Qaeda splinter group, Okba Ibn Nafaa Brigade. (The group had been raided by Tunisian authorities several days before the attack.) He also said that Tunisia was under particular threat for being a secular democratic nation.
The state of emergency will last at least 30 days. The army will expand the areas it can operate in and security services increased. Authorities can also conduct raids on homes. A state of emergency was last declared in Tunisia in 2011, during the uprising against Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali. The president has promised to respect freedom of expression throughout, in regards to concerns that the restrictions on public gatherings would be used to stifle opposition. The law used to declare a state of emergency was first created in 2003.
About 15 percent of Tunisia’s workforce is employed in the tourist industry. Over 6 million people visited the country as tourists in 2014. Among the popular destinations for tourists are the beach resorts, the ruins of Carthage, the capital Tunis, and the island of Djerba. The low costs offered by resorts have added to the appeal. The gunman in the Sousse shootings may have worked in the tourism industry in the past. It is unknown if the state of emergency and attacks will have a further effect on the tourist industry.
[Photo via Getty Images/Jeff J. Mitchell]