Tunisian police say they have arrested several suspects in connection with two failed suicide attacks in coastal resort towns. The attempted attacks are the first such bids in the country in a decade.
In the first incident, a suicide bomber wearing an explosive belt was prevented by security guards from entering the Riadh Palm hotel in the resort town of Sousse, 145 kilometers (90 miles) south of the capital, Tunis. The guards chased the man to a beach, where he blew himself up, the Interior Ministry said.
No one else was injured in the failed attack.
Within half an hour, security forces foiled another suicide attack by an 18-year-old man in Monastir, 20 kilometers further south along the coast. Officials said security personnel had managed to subdue the man before he could explode a backpack full of TNT.
The second failed bid took place at the mausoleum of modern Tunisia’s founder, Habib Bourguiba, who was a fierce secularist and has long been the butt of criticism for hardline Islamists.
Fears for tourism
The Interior Ministry said both men belonged to the same Salafist extremist group, Ansar al-Sharia. Authorities have designated the group as a “terrorist organization” with links to al Qaeda.
The attempted suicide bombings are the first in Tunisia since 2002, when an attack claimed by al Qaeda killed 21 people at a synagogue on the resort island of Djerba.
Analysts fear the attacks, which come on the heels of a failed car bombing a few days ago, could signal a new violent campaign by extremists targeting civilians and tourism. Tourism is a vital source of revenue for the cash-strapped Tunisian government.
However, the Tunisian presidency has said the violence will not succeed in “derailing” the country’s political transition.
It was referring to a national dialogue currently taking place between the ruling moderate Islamist party Ennahda and the opposition to end months of political crisis exacerbated by the assassination in July of opposition politican Mohamed Brahmi. Jihadists are suspected of having carried out the killing.
Ennahda has been sharply criticized by the opposition for failing to bring jihadist militancy under control.
The party came to power in Tunisia’s first post-revolutionary elections in October 2011.
tj/ccp (AFP, AP)