Female suicide bomber injures 20 in Tunisia’s capital
TUNIS - A woman blew herself up in downtown Tunis’ main Habib Bourguiba avenue on Monday, injuring 15 police officers and 5 civilians, authorities said.
Witnesses said the explosion took place by a police patrol near the busy Palmarium shopping centre, sparking panic in the avenue.
“We were ten metres away when it happened,” said Tunisian student Karim Saoudi. “One of the police officers was pushed back across the street (by the explosion).”
“We were completely shocked. We never would have imagined an attack happening in that spot.”
Saoudi added that police were quick to respond and clear the area, which was cordoned off Monday afternoon.
Habib Bourguiba avenue is a focal point of downtown Tunis, where both the French embassy and the interior ministry are located, and leading into the city’s old medina. The street’s shops and cafes are popular with locals and tourists, and it normally sees a heavy security presence.
The interior ministry identified the suicide bomber as a 30-year old woman from Sidi Alouane, a small town in the coastal province of Mahdia. She had no known extremist ties and there was no immediate claim of responsibility.
Security sources told Agence France-Presse that the perpetrator likely used a “home-made bomb” for the attack, not a suicide belt as was previously reported.
Local media reported that at least one other individual who was present near the bombing was arrested Monday on suspicion of involvement in the attack.
Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi, speaking via video broadcast from Berlin on Monday, condemned the “tragic act” that he said had “damaged the Tunisian state, its authorities and its sovereignty.”
“We believed that terrorism was eradicated, but it is striking in the city center and in the heart of the capital," said Essebsi. “Once again, the security forces pay the bill.”
Later that day, Tunisian Prime Minister visited a military hospital in Tunis where some of the wounded were receiving treatment, according to the Tunisian Press Agency.
“Most of the injuries are minor, except two cases that are no longer in critical condition,” said Chahed.
Directorate General of National Security Spokesman Walid Hekima described the attack as a “primitive terrorist act that has failed.”
The bombing was the first presumed terror attack to hit Tunisia’s capital since November 2015, when a suicide bombing claimed by ISIS killed 12 national guardsmen.
That attack prompted the government to announce a state of emergency, which has remained in place ever since.
Earlier in 2015, a terror attack at Tunis’s Bardo National Museum and a resort in Sousse killed dozens of mostly European tourists.