State of Emergency in Tunisia After Bus Blast Kills 12

State of Emergency in Tunisia After Bus Blast Kills 12State of Emergency in Tunisia After Bus Blast Kills 12

Tunisia’s President Beji Caid Essebsi declared a 30-day state of emergency across the country and imposed an overnight curfew for the capital Tuesday after an explosion struck a bus carrying members of the presidential guard, killing at least 12 people and wounding 20 others.

The government described it as a terrorist attack. The blast on a tree-lined avenue in the heart of Tunis is a new blow to a country that is seen as a model for the region but has struggled against extremists’ violence.

Radical gunmen staged two attacks earlier this year that killed 60 people, devastated the tourism industry and rattled this young democracy, AP reported.

No one immediately claimed the attack against the presidential guard, an elite security force that protects only the president.

Speaking on national television, Essebsi said Tunisia is at “war against terrorism” and urged international cooperation against extremists who have killed hundreds around Europe and the Mideast in recent weeks, from Paris to Beirut to a Russian plane shot down over Egypt.

Police fanned out throughout central Tunis after Tuesday’s explosion and ambulances rushed to the scene, evacuating wounded and dead. Top government ministers visited the scene of the attack after it was cordoned off by police.

Witness Bassem Trifi, a human rights lawyer, said the explosion hit the driver’s side of the bus, describing a “catastrophic” scene.

“I saw at least five corpses on the ground,” he told the AP. “This was not an ordinary explosion.”

The attack came days after authorities visibly increased the security level in the capital and deployed security forces in unusually high numbers.

Earlier this month, Tunisian authorities announced the dismantling of a cell that it said had planned attacks at police stations and hotels in the seaside city of Sousse, about 150 kilometers southeast of Tunis. Sousse was one of the targets of attacks earlier this year.

Tunisia’s influential Islamist party also denounced the explosion and urged Tunisians to unite behind the security forces as they hunt for the perpetrators. “Tunisia is targeted because it is a democracy and represents a model of moderate Islam,” it said.