ISIL claims deadly Tunisia bus bombing

The extremist group said a Tunisian named as Abou Abdallah Al Tounissi had carried out the suicide attack. Thirteen people were killed, including the bomber, and 20 others wounded.

A Tunisian policeman mourns as he carries the coffin of a member of the presidential guards, who was killed in a suicide attack on a bus in central Tunis the previous day. Fethi Belaid/AFP Photo
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TUNIS // ISIL on Wednesday claimed the suicide bombing of a bus carrying presidential guards in the Tunisian capital, as the country imposed a nationwide state of emergency.

President Beji Caid Essebsi and other members of the national security council met on Wednesday to discuss more crisis measures following the blast a day before.

ISIL said a Tunisian, named as Abou Abdallah Al Tounissi, had boarded the bus wearing an explosives belt only a few hundred metres from the interior ministry as it picked up guards on their way to work.

Twelve of them were killed and 20 other people wounded, including four civilians, according to the health ministry.

ISIL said in a statement shared online that 20 people had died.

It published a photo of the attacker dressed in white and wearing an explosives vest, his head and face covered with a scarf.

The interior ministry said 10 kilos of Semtex explosives were used in the bombing.

A 13th body “is believed to be that of the terrorist who caused the explosion”, it said, adding that DNA tests were being conducted to identify the person.

After the blast Mr Essebsi ordered a 9pm to 5am curfew for Tunis and a state of emergency throughout the country, less than two months after a previous one had been lifted.

The previous curfew was imposed in June after an ISIL gunman massacred 38 foreign tourists at the popular Mediterranean resort of Sousse.

In March, two ISIL militants stormed the National Bardo Museum in Tunis, killing 21 tourists and a policeman.

And just days ago, a militant group claimed the beheading of a young Tunisian shepherd on behalf of IS, accusing him of having informed the army about their movements.

Some presidential guards expressed concern that not enough was being done to protect them from attacks, highlighting that the bombing took place at a location where they are routinely picked up to go to work.

“As usual, we got on the bus,” one wounded guard said on national radio. “Just as the driver started to head off, the explosion occurred.”

“For years this place has been our gathering point but they didn’t think to change it, although we are the first to be targeted,” another one said.

The site of the explosion was cordoned off on Wednesday, with forensic experts at work around the burnt-out shell of the bus.

Behind the barricades set up, dozens of ordinary citizens demonstrated in support of Tunisia’s security forces, some carrying the national flag.

Meanwhile, plainclothes policemen prohibited journalists from gathering at the site and assaulted a number of them who did.

Reporters Without Borders denounced the “abuse” of what it said was around 30 journalists.

The transport ministry announced that security would be reinforced in the country’s ports and that only passengers would be allowed to enter Tunis’s international airport.

A year ago, a bus carrying troops was attacked by two armed men in north-west Tunisia, according to the defence ministry. Five soldiers were killed.

In July 2014, 15 soldiers were killed in the Mount Chaambi region near the Algerian border, in the worst such attack in the army’s history.

The United States condemned the latest attack and offered to help the Tunisian authorities with their investigation.

“Terrorists have sought to use fear and violence to undermine the important gains the Tunisian people have made in pursuit of a democratic, stable, and prosperous country,” the White House said.

* Agence France-Presse