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TERRORISM

French tourists caught in Tunisia terror attack

UPDATED: A number of French tourists were reportedly injured after terrorist gunmen attacked the famous Bardo Museum in Tunisia's capital. At least 17 foreign nationals were killed, along with the two attackers and a policeman.

French tourists caught in Tunisia terror attack
Tunisian security forces secure the area after gunmen attacked Tunis' famed Bardo Museum. Photo: AFP

According to local media reports three men dressed in military-style clothing armed with kalashnikovs opened fire at around midday local time.

"A terrorist attack [targeted] the Bardo Museum," Tunisian interior ministry spokesman Mohamed Ali Aroui told journalists.

He said that the attack involved "two or more terrorists armed with Kalashnikovs".

The latest reports say that police had killed the two terrorist attackers after a stand-off. Several tourists who had been taken hostage were freed.

The Tunisian PM says says at least 17 foreign tourists were killed in the attack. A Tunisian policeman is also believed to have been killed. 

Numerous other tourists were injured including four French nationals who were taken to hospital.

In a brief call with his Tunisian counterpart Beji Caid Essebsi, French president François Hollande expressed "the solidarity of France with … the Tunisian people in this very grave moment," a source close to Hollande's office told AFP.

French PM Manuel Valls said: "I condemn this terrorist attack in the strongest terms."

Earlier, a French national who was trapped in the museum at the time told BFM TV that she was with 40 French nationals who had locked themselves inside a room.

“Given the number of shots fired it would be a surprise if there are no deaths,” whispered the witness named Fabienne. “We are scared that they [gunmen] will arrive at any moment and shoot us.”

“I am sitting against the wall with my partner, another couple and a child.”

Around 200 visitors were said to be in the museum at the time of the attack. 


(The map above shows the museum, with Parliament attached from the lower right.)

The Bardo museum is visited by thousands of tourists each year as it contains one of the world’s largest collections of Roman mosaics.

Images sent out on Twitter showed visitors to the museum including a number of children huddled together against the wall.

Another French tourist on the scene, Geraldine, told French television channel iTele that there was a wave of confusion as the shots were being fired.
 
Speaking from the apparent safety of a nearby balcony, she explained that she had hit the ground with others around her.
 
"There's no more shots being fired outside, but we can hear a lot of people yelling… there are shots, there are shots," she said. 
 
She added that there was an "impressive" police presence on the scene. 
 

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TERRORISM

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks

US Vice President Kamala Harris and French Prime Minister Jean Castex laid wreaths at a Paris cafe and France's national football stadium Saturday six years since deadly terror attacks that left 130 people dead.

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks
US Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff lay flowers after ceremonies at Le Carillon bar and Le Petit Cambodge restaurant, at which 130 people were killed during the 2015 Paris terror attacks. Photo: Sarahbeth Maney/POOL/AFP

The attacks by three separate teams of Islamic State group jihadists on the night of November 13, 2015 were the worst in France since World War II.

Gunmen mowed down 129 people in front of cafes and at a concert hall in the capital, while a bus driver was killed after suicide bombers blew themselves up at the gates of the stadium in its suburbs.

Harris, wrapping up a four-day trip to France, placed a bouquet of white flowers in front of a plaque honouring the victims outside a Paris cafe.

Castex attended a minute of silence at the Stade de France football stadium, along with Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, before laying wreaths at the sites of the other attacks inside Paris.

In front of the Bataclan concert hall, survivors and relatives of the victims listened to someone read out the names of each of the 90 people killed during a concert there six years ago.

Public commemorations of the tragedy were called off last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Last year we weren’t allowed to come and we all found it really tough,” said Bruno Poncet, who made it out alive of the Bataclan.

But he said the start of a trial over the attacks in September meant that those attending the commemoration this year felt more united.

‘Overcome it all’

“We’ve really bonded thanks to the trial,” he said. “During previous commemorations, we’d spot each other from afar without really daring to speak to each other. We were really shy. But standing up in court has really changed everything.”

The marathon trial, the biggest in France’s modern legal history, is expected to last until May 2022.

Twenty defendants are facing sentences of up to life in prison, including the sole attacker who was not gunned down by police, Salah Abdeslam, a French-Moroccan national who was captured in Brussels. Six of the defendants are being tried in absentia.

Poncet said he felt it was crucial that he attend the hearings. “I can’t possibly not. It’s our lives that are being discussed in that room, and it’s important to come to support the others and to try to overcome it all.”

Survivors have taken to the witness stand to recount the horror of the attacks, but also to describe life afterwards.

Several said they had been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, grappling with survivor’s guilt, or even feeling alienated from the rest of society.

Saturday’s commemorations are to wrap up with a minute of silence at the Stade de France in the evening before the kick-off for a game between France and Kazakhstan.

It was during a football match between France and Germany that three suicide bombers blew themselves up in 2015.

Then-French president Francois Hollande was one of the 80,000 people in the crowd, before he was discreetly whisked away to avoid triggering mass panic.

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