Attack On Museum Seen As Strike Against Tunisian Economy Tunisia is reeling after a deadly attack on the Bardo National Museum left at least 20 foreign tourists dead. The gunmen took hostages before police shot two of the militants and caught at least one.

Attack On Museum Seen As Strike Against Tunisian Economy

Attack On Museum Seen As Strike Against Tunisian Economy

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/393982101/393982112" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Survivors are escorted from the National Bardo Museum in Tunis on Wednesday. At least 20 foreign tourists were reportedly killed in the attack. Mohamed Messara/EPA/Landov hide caption

toggle caption
Mohamed Messara/EPA/Landov

Survivors are escorted from the National Bardo Museum in Tunis on Wednesday. At least 20 foreign tourists were reportedly killed in the attack.

Mohamed Messara/EPA/Landov

Tunisia is reeling after a deadly attack on the Bardo National Museum left at least 20 foreign tourists dead. The gunmen stormed the museum and took hostages before police shot two of the militants and caught at least one. They are still searching for others.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The Arab Spring began in Tunisia. And since then, that country has been the focus of the region's hopes for modern democracy. Yesterday, militants pushed back. Gunmen stormed a museum in the capital of Tunisia, killing at least 21, nearly all of them foreign tourists. Two attackers were also killed, and the government says it's seeking accomplices. NPR's Leila Fadel is in Tunis.

(SOUNDBITE OF AMBULANCE)

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: The sound of sirens filled the air outside the Bardo National Museum, a 15th century palace that houses Roman mosaics and other antiquities from ancient Greece, Tunisia and Islamic history. But yesterday, it was the site of a brazen and bloody attack targeting tourists from around the world. Young, armed gunmen entered a compound that houses the museum and Tunisia's parliament. They opened fire on buses. And when police surrounded them, they fled into the museum and took hostages. Wassel Bouzid had just finished showing visitors from Spain and South America around the museum. He stood in the parking lot, smoking a cigarette as his group boarded the bus. And then...

WASSEL BOUZID: I saw, at 10 meters from me to the right, very young men - about 25 years old - blue jacket - seemed very modern. And he was taking a gun. From the beginning, I thought it was a game. I thought he was one of the guests playing with his friends.

FADEL: But it wasn't a game. The young man began to shoot, Bouzid ran.

BOUZID: I heard around six, seven minutes shooting, nonstop.

FADEL: He says two of the tourists from his group were shot and killed on the bus. Their bodies were still inside as we spoke.

BOUZID: I'm really - I don't find terms to explain. I'm sorry for those who were killed - really sorry. And this is not Tunisia. This is not our country.

FADEL: It's the start of tourist season in Tunisia, when people flock to the beaches and historic sites. But this, he says, will kill tourism. And the millions who depend on it for their livelihood will starve.

ABDELFATTAH MOROUR: (Speaking Arabic).

FADEL: "That was the goal of today's attacks," said deputy parliament speaker Abdelfattah Morour before rushing inside the parliament to meet with others about the crisis.

MOROUR: (Speaking Arabic).

FADEL: "The attackers knew what they were doing, hitting the museum on a day when cruise ships dock in Tunis," he said. It was a strike against the country's security, economy and its fledgling democracy.

A few miles away at the Charles Nicole Hospital, doctors treated the wounded. Diplomats arrived to check on their citizens. A young woman in tears and showed up at the door. She's the wife of a police officer named Ayman Murjani, and she's searching for him. Hospital officials direct her to the morgue.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Speaking Arabic).

FADEL: The woman's father holds up a little girl and recites a verse from the Quran, calling on God to avenge his son-in-law's death. "We are all soldiers of this country against terrorism," he yells. The girl he's holding is the child of his dead son-in-law.

Tunisia has long been lauded as the bright spot of the so-called Arab Spring. But it is not a country in a bubble. The attack was a reminder of that. Tunisia shares a porous border with Libya, which is largely lawless and awash with weapons. And hundreds, perhaps thousands, of young Tunisian men have gone to join the self-declared Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. By nightfall on Wednesday, state television reported that the two slain attackers had been identified. One had disappeared four months ago. His family believed he might have gone to Iraq. Leila Fadel, NPR News, Tunis.

Copyright © 2015 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.