Two gunmen and a security officer were killed in a raid at a Tunisian museum on Wednesday, ending a hostage situation that followed an attack on the building that left several tourists dead.
The gunmen killed 19 people — including 17 tourists — and injured 22 people, according to Prime Minister Habib Essid. The attack started outside the National Bardo Museum, which lies next to the capital’s parliament compound.
The attackers then proceeded to hold a number of tourists and museum staff hostage as government forces surrounded the area.
The standoff ended when armed troops stormed the museum. Both attackers were killed and the hostage crisis was declared over by Tunisian authorities. A police officer was killed in the security operation.
“A terrorist attack [targeted] the Bardo Museum,” ministry spokesman Mohamed Ali Aroui told reporters, adding that the assault was carried out by “two or more terrorists armed with Kalashnikovs.” He said that about 100 tourists had been inside the museum at the time of the attack.
The attack began with a burst of gunfire from near the parliament building around midday, according to local media reports. The building was evacuated soon after the attack. The assailants then entered the adjacent museum and took hostages. Photos posted to Twitter by one of the alleged hostages show more than a dozen people in a room of the museum.
Yasmine Ryan, an independent journalist who covers North Africa, told Al Jazeera from Tunis that ambulances were going in and out of the area, which had been cordoned off by the security forces.
President Beji Caid Essebsi was to make a public statement to the nation, presidency spokesman Moez Sinaoui told Agence France-Presse.
In a post to its Facebook page, Tunisia’s major Islamist political party, Ennahdha, said it was “horrified by this attack,” adding that it “strongly condemns all acts of violence against Tunisia and its visitors.”
Tunisia has witnessed periodic flare-ups of violence ever since the country’s 2011 uprising toppled autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.
The attack comes a day after Tunisian security officials confirmed the death in neighboring Libya of a leading suspect in several attacks in Tunis, including the killings of two high-profile opposition figures.
Roughly 3,000 Tunisians have also left the country to fight for radical groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria, Iraq and Libya, sparking fears that returning fighters could carry out attacks at home.