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Suicide bombers kill policeman in attack near US embassy in Tunisia’s capital

Security forces at the scene of Friday's blast near the US embassy in Tunis.
Security forces at the scene of Friday's blast near the US embassy in Tunis. © Zoubeir Souissi, REUTERS

Two militants on a motorbike blew themselves up outside the US embassy in Tunis on Friday, killing a policeman and injuring several others in the country's most serious attack in months.

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Tunisia's Interior Ministry said the two militants were killed carrying out the attack, and five police officers were injured. State news agency TAP later reported the death of one policeman in the attack.

Sirens could be heard on the major highway linking the Berges du Lac district, where the embassy is located, with central Tunis and  suburbs in the north. The US embassy in a tweet urged people to avoid the area.

FRANCE 24’s correspondent Fadil Aliriza reported a heavy security presence at the scene and what appeared to be body parts on the ground.

 

Islamic extremists have targeted Tunisia in recent years, killing scores of people.

Last summer, the Islamic State group said it was behind three militant blasts in the capital, including one near the French embassy that killed a policeman and another that wounded five people during a security operation to detain a suspect.

Tunisia's critical tourism sector is highly vulnerable to militant incidents and was devastated after two major attacks in 2015, which killed scores of visitors at a beach resort and a popular museum.

Diplomats who have worked with Tunisia on its security capacity say it has grown more effective in preventing and responding to militant attacks in recent years.

A ‘very powerful explosion’

Photographs of the blast site posted on social media showed debris strewn around the area of a security checkpoint that controls access to the embassy, and damaged vehicles.

"We heard a very powerful explosion ... we saw the remains of the terrorist lying on the ground after he went on the motorbike towards the police," said Amira, a shopkeeper.

Diplomats who have worked with Tunisia on its security capacity say it has grown more effective in preventing and responding to militant attacks in recent years.

An al Qaeda group has been sheltering for years in the desolate, hilly terrain along a stretch of the border with Algeria and sometimes clashes with security forces there, but is regarded as having been closely contained.

Hundreds of Tunisians have also travelled to Iraq, Syria or Libya in recent years to join the Islamic State group, and in 2016 members of the group rampaged across the border with Libya and fought the army in a border town, but were repulsed.

"The attack indicates that the security challenge remains a major challenge in Tunisia," said local security analyst Ali Zarmedini.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

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