12 Dead in Bus Attack in Tunisian Capital

Police blocking access to street near site of bombing in Tunisia

Police blocking access to street near site of bombing/
image courtesy AFP/Getty

12 Dead in Bus Attack in
Tunisian Capital

| published November 24, 2015 |

By Thursday Review staff


The Islamic State is claiming responsibility for a bombing attack on a bus carrying members of the elite Presidential Guard in Tunisia on Tuesday. ISIS made the claim of responsibility on social media and on its various websites.

Police and security forces in Tunisia say that the bomb was likely rigged to the vest of a suicide bomber who was aboard the bus. At least 12 people were killed in the attack, which brought about the closure of a half dozen streets in downtown Tunis. The bomb detonated as the bus was inching along Mohamed V Avenue near the Interior Ministry.

Tuesday’s attack is the third time this year that ISIS-linked militants have unleashed terror upon Tunisia. In March, militants killed 38 foreigners—mostly tourists and business travelers—at a beach resort and hotel, and in June radical extremists used high-powered automatic weapons to attack the Bardo Museum in downtown Tunis, a location popular with tourists and locals alike. At least 21 died in the June assault on the museum.

Tuesday’s bus attack came just as members of the Presidential guard had loaded onto the bus in advance of accompanying the Presidential motorcade toward the palace near the suburbs of Tunis. According to police and to some survivors, the bomber used a switch on his belt to detonate the explosives which were strapped inside of a vest.

At least 12 members of the elite guard unit were killed, and another 18 are reported wounded, some seriously. Mohammed V Avenue is heavily travelled and often bustling with a combination of tourist and government activity. The wide, European-style boulevard is home to numerous large hotels, restaurants, government buildings, and major banks.

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi cancelled planned trips to Europe, announcing instead that he will remain in the capital city to concentrate all efforts on the crisis.

Tunisia is one of several countries now in the crosshairs of the Islamic State and its goal of territorial acquisition across the wider Middle East and Africa. In late October, a Russian Metrojet airplane carrying 224 passengers and crew exploded over the Sinai Peninsula, brought down apparently by an explosive device smuggled aboard by a member of the ground crew or a food vendor. ISIS has been engaged in a battle for control of some parts of the Sinai, a struggle with Egyptian police and military which has, so far, not gone well for Egyptian authorities. ISIS also now maintains a large footprint in several areas of eastern and southern Libya, where a weak central government has created an opportunity for Islamic State expansion. ISIS is also responsible for several recent bombings in Turkey, in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, and in Afghanistan.

On Friday, November 13, ISIS militants waged six separate terror attacks across Paris, leaving some 130 dead and at least 350 wounded. The attacks prompted France to step up its participation in the air campaign to strike at ISIS targets in Syria. This week, the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle is bringing the firepower of an additional 24 fighter jets to the region.

Tunisia, the first of many countries which became caught up in what is now commonly called The Arab Spring (2010-2011), held free and open elections in 2012, adopted a new constitution, and instituted secular democracy. But the transition has been challenged deeply by Islamic radicals and extremist groups unhappy with the Tunisian model of Arab democracy. This has forced the fledgling government to engage in a costly and sometimes bloody struggle with Islamists, many of them now under the rubric of ISIS.

According to some western intelligence reports, as many as 3,000 radicalized Tunisians have left Tunisia to join the ranks of ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Those who have returned are believed to be operating among ranks of Tunisia’s now growing radical Islamic militant movement. Similar extremist groups operate across much of northern Africa, including in Algeria, Libya, parts of Egypt, The Sudan, Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Mali.

In Mali on Friday, Islamic militants stormed into the Radisson Blue hotel, killing two dozen people—mostly tourists and businesspersons—before Malian commandos and French soldiers retook control of the hotel.

Related Thursday Review articles:

Terror Concerns Still Haunt Europe; R. Alan Clanton; Thursday Review; November 23, 2015.

Islamic Militants Storm Hotel in Mali, 27 Dead; Thursday Review staff; Thursday Review; November 20, 2015.