Two Britons feared to be among those killed, as officials says remaining hostages freed and two gunmen killed in attack on museum next to Tunisia’s parliament
It is not yet clear whether Islamic State jihadists were involved in the attack.
15.30 Although two gunmen have been killed, security forces are still hunting for two or three individuals believed to have been involved in the attack, said Habib Essid, Tunisia’s prime minister.
However, state TV reported that the incident is over.
15.21 Polish, Italian, German and Spanish tourists are among those dead in the attack, said Habib Essid, Tunisia’s prime minister.
He did not confirm or deny earlier local reports that two Britons were among the dead.
15.08 The tourists were killed when gunmen opened fire on them as they disembarked from buses outside Tunisia’s national museum, witnesses and officials have said.
The gunmen then took others hostage inside the building.
Members of the Tunisian police force take up a position near the country’s parliament after gunmen reportedly took hostages (EPA)
15.05 The death toll from the terror attack has gone up, although the precise number of fatalities remains unclear.
Nineteen people, including 17 foreign tourists, have been killed in the attack, according to Tunisia’s prime minister.
However, the country’s interior minister has said 15 tourists were killed.
In addition, “a policeman and two terrorists were killed,” Wataniya 1 television reported.
A police source confirmed the death of the policeman to AFP.
15.00 According to Le Point, this is the first time that civilians have been directly targeted by an armed group in Tunisia. Until now, terrorists have targeted security forces or politicians.
Since 2011, 57 members of the Tunisian security forces have been killed in clashes with armed groups, and 171 wounded.
Manuel Valls, the French prime minister, said: “We are by the Tunisian government’s side. He added: “This terrorist attack…cruelly illustrates the threats confronting us in Europe, in the Mediterranean and in the world.”
Tunisian security forces secure the area after gunmen attacked Tunis’ Bardo Museum (AFP/GETTY)
14.54 According to Tunisian state TV, some 150 Tunisian police took part in the operation to kill two assailants and free the hostages, reports Henry Samuel.
In a brief telephone conversation with his Tunisian counterpart, Béji Caïd Essebsi, François Hollande, the French president, expressed “France’s solidarity with him and the Tunisian people at this very grave time.”
14.51 Henry Samuel brings up this from French media. Géraldine, a French tourist holed up at the museum, told iTele: “We are at the Bardo museum and on a guided tour and heard shots outside, several volleys. We thought it was a party, but in fact it wasn’t – there were men on the floor. Then there was a movement of panic as there are lots of people in the building. There are around 40 of us holed up in a room. We are rather panic-stricken, there was lots of noise.
“Then there were no gunshots outside, then we heard of things outside. We were all inside sitting on the floor in the room. We could hear Allahu Akbar and lots of firing. There are around 40 French tourists with Costa Cruises. People are shooting outside. Earlier there were shots in the museum, now it’s outside.
“We can’t see outside. There is a group of attackers. There have been lots of volleys of gunire. I would say there are a lot of them or else I am mistaken because I don’t know about this kind of thing.”
14.33 Two gunmen who attacked a museum in the Tunisian capital have been killed as well as a policeman, state television said, without specifying if the incident was over.
“A policeman and two terrorists were killed,” Wataniya 1 television reported. A police source confirmed the death of the policeman to AFP.
14.27 AFP say two gunmen and a policeman have been killed, according to reports
14.15 Reports are now emerging that the hostage seige is over, and that the gunmen have been killed.
Two Italian hostages are believed to be among those killed in the attack:
14.05 The fact that there are still tourists to attack in Tunisia tells its own story, writes Colin Freeman – who asks whether today’s attacks will force the government to change its relatively passive stance on homegrown extremism:
Ever since it became the birth place of the Arab Spring in 2011, the tiny north African nation has been the only country in the region to enjoy anything approaching stability after the overthrow of its resident dictator.
However, the process of rebuilding the country after years of iron rule under Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has not been the straightforward process that it once looked like being.
Significantly, the nation of 11 million has also contributed more jihadist fighters per capita to the conflict in Syria than anywhere else.
Some have interpreted that as a sign that Tunisia has chosen to turn a blind eye against its extremists, as long as they only cause trouble abroad.
Today’s carnage on the streets of Tunis may change that.
14.00 Manuel Valls, the French prime minister, confirmed that tourists have been killed and hostages taken in a “terrorist” attack on the museum in Tunis. He said:
I condemn this terrorist attack in the strongest terms. There has been a hostage-taking, without doubt tourists have been affected
13.56 Tunisian president Beji Caid Essebsi is due to make a public statement to the nation shortly, spokesman Moez Sinaoui told AFP.
13.53 Video has been published on social media of tourists fleeing the scene:
13.50 Today’s terror attack follows a string of attempted strikes Tunisian authorities claim to have foiled.
The government said on Monday that it had arrested four terror cells.
And just last month, it said it had arrested 32 militant Islamists planning ‘spectacular’ attacks.
Bardo Museum, where the hostage situation is ongoing (REX)
13.40 The motivation behind the attack is not yet known, but Tunisia has become a breeding ground for jihadists – it is now the largest source of foreign fighters joining Isil and other extremist groups in Syria and Iraq. Louisa Loveluck reports:
Nestled in Africa’s northern crest, Tunisia is often hailed as a lone Arab Spring success story. As much of the region was wracked by fighting, a week ago Tunisians went to the polls for the second free parliamentary vote since the fall of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.
But the country also stands out for another reason – it is now the largest source of foreign fighters joining the Islamic State (Isil) and other extremist groups in Syria and Iraq. By some estimates, the number could be as high as 3,000. US officials say the total number of foreign fighters is around 16,000.
In March 2014, an fighter from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant named as Abu Anas al Tunisi – Abu Anas the Tunisian – carried out a suicide attack on an Iraqi government complex, disguised in military uniform. Photos on Isil-linked social media accounts show groups of hoodie-clad Tunisians, smiling and clutching their guns.
Radicalised Tunisians have also been found with jihadist groups in Algeria, Iraq, Libya and Mali.
Read in full: How Tunisia became a breeding ground for jihadists