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Published on : Friday, November 1, 2013
An unstable Tunisia suffered a worse blow when its economic lifeline, the tourism sector, experienced a major setback after a suicide bombing and another foiled attempt took place in two coastal resort towns.
Only the suicide bomber was killed Wednesday in an attack on a beachside hotel in Sousse, and the security forces thwarted another attempted suicide attack soon after in neighbouring Monastir. The interior ministry said its special forces arrested five Salafist “terrorists” directly linked to the first suicide bids in the North African country in more than a decade.
It said the terrorists belonged to Ansar al-Sharia, Tunisia’s main Salafist movement, which the authorities have designated a “terrorist organisation” with ties to Al-Qaeda.
The presidency, however, insisted the attacks, which have yet to be claimed by any particular entity, would not “derail” the democratic transition.
It was referring to a national dialogue underway between the ruling Islamist party Ennahda and the opposition to end months of political crisis, sparked by the July assassination of opposition leader Mohamed Brahmi by suspected jihadists.
As part of a roadmap agreed by political leaders to break the political stalemate, Ennahda will be replaced and a new prime minister named.
Ennahda’s veteran leader Rached Ghannouchi, who has been criticised in the past for encouraging dialogue with hardline Salafists, denounced “those who tried to target tourists,” calling them “criminals who want to destroy Tunisia, its economy and its democratic transition”.
In the first attack, the suicide bomber “blew himself up on a beach in Sousse” near the four-star Riadh Palms hotel, interior ministry spokesman Mohamed Ali Laroui told AFP. There were no other casualties.
Within half an hour, security forces foiled another suicide attack by an 18-year-old youth on the tomb of former president Habib Bourguiba, in Monastir, 20 kilometres (12 miles) along the coast. Residents said they saw the would-be bomber moving suspiciously in a cemetery near the tomb and reported him. He was arrested by presidential security guards.