19 killed in attack on Tunisia museum

Updated

Gunmen killed at least 19 people — including 17 foreign tourists — in an attack on a museum in Tunisia and their accomplices might still be at large, the country’s prime minister said Wednesday.

Prime Minister Habib Essid said two terrorists were killed in an operation to end the assault, but that up to three possible accomplices could be on the run. It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack at the National Bardo Museum in the capital city of Tunis.

Describing the attack as “cowardly,” Essid said in a televised news conference that the tourists were fired upon as they stepped off their bus to visit museum near the North African nation’s parliament. He said that Polish, Italian, German and Spanish citizens were among the dead.

The United States condemned the “wanton violence” and praised Tunisia’s response.

“We extend our heartfelt sympathy to the victims’ families and loved ones,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement. “The United States stands with the Tunisian people at this difficult time and continues to support the Tunisian government’s efforts to advance a secure, prosperous, and democratic Tunisia.”

The attack is a blow for the North African country that relies heavily on tourism and has largely avoided major militant violence since its 2011 uprising to oust autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.

Essid called for national unity, saying the attack was “aimed at destroying the Tunisian economy.”

Footage from Tunisia’s state-run broadcaster ERTT showed what appeared to be security services ushering dozens of civilians out of a street and into a building as the incident unfolded.

Poland’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Marcin Wojciechowski told a press conference that at least three Poles were injured. He said the wounded were part of a group of 36 Polish nationals touring the museum at the time of the attack.

Italy’s foreign ministry confirmed to NBC News that two Italians were injured and 100 had been brought to safety. The nationalities of the other casualties were not immediately clear.

The public affairs section of the U.S. Embassy in Tunis told NBC News it had no additional details and was not prepared to comment. A message later posted on the embassy website warned of an “ongoing security situation” around the Bardo museum and urged U.S. citizens to avoid the vicinity.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls labelled the incident a “terrorist attack” and said France was standing by its former protectorate.

“We are condemning this terrorist attack in the strongest terms,” Valls told reporters in Brussels according to Reuters. “We are very alert about how the situation is evolving.”

NBC News’ Alastair Jamieson and Reuters contributed reporting.


This article originally appeared on NBCNews.com.

Tunisia

19 killed in attack on Tunisia museum

Updated