On Wednesday gunmen stormed the Bardo Museum in Tunis, a popular tourist destination located next to Tunisian parliament, killing more than a dozen tourists and taking others hostage inside the museum.
Two gunmen were killed in a subsequent police operation, which resulted in the release of all the remaining hostages, according to BBC News. The total death toll from the attack is 19, according to Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid: 17 foreigners, two Tunisians. The dead include Italian, Polish, German, and Spanish nationals. Another two Tunisians and 22 foreign tourists were injured in the ordeal, the prime minister said in a televised address following the attack.
The European Union’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini blamed the attack on ISIS, saying in a statement: “This strengthens our determination to cooperate more closely with our partners to confront the terrorist threat … The EU is determined to mobilize all the tools it has to fully support Tunisia in the fight against terrorism and reforming the security sector.”
At the time of the attack, around mid-day, Tunisia’s parliament was in session and discussing anti-terrorism legislation. Parliament was evacuated. Photos posted on social media from inside the museum purportedly showed tourists being held hostage in the galleries.
Tunisia has been the most stable country to come through the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011 — when its president of 24 years Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ousted — but it has also contributed more foreign fighters to ISIS than any other country, according to the New York Times, with between 2,400 and 3,000 Tunisians joining the terrorist organization in Iraq and Syria.
The Bardo Museum houses one of the world’s foremost collections of Roman mosaics, as well as a 40,000-year-old Mousterian altar, an exceptional trove of ancient Greek artifacts recovered from a shipwreck off Mahdia in the 1940s, and a suit of armor made from solid gold that belonged to a warrior of the Punic civilization — a culture of Ancient Carthage.