TUNIS Nov 25 – At least 13 people were killed in Tuesday’s apparent suicide bombing of a Tunisian presidential guard bus in central Tunis, prompting the government to declare a state of emergency and tighten security around the capital.
Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack, an official statement from the group said.
Shortly after the attack, troops and armed police patrolled the city streets and set up checkpoints searching vehicles and pedestrians. At Tunis international airport security forces were allowing in only passengers traveling.
Tuesday’s blast on a main boulevard was the third major attack on Tunisia this year following the gun assaults on a Sousse resort hotel in June and the Bardo Museum in Tunis in March, both claimed by Daesh. Officials had earlier put the death toll at 12.
“This is a new type of attack that targets the prestige of the state, such as the symbol of the presidential guard,” said presidential security official Hichem Gharbi. “We are facing a real challenge with an attack right in the city center.”
The suicide bomber was carrying a backpack when he blew himself up getting into the vehicle, a government official said on Wednesday, citing an investigation.
“According to the preliminary details, the attacker was wearing a bag on his back. He had on a coat and was wearing headphones. He blew himself up just getting into the door of the bus with military explosives,” Gharbi told local Shems FM radio.
The White House has condemned “in the strongest terms” Tuesday’s attacks.
The United States is prepared to assist Tunisian authorities in the investigation of the attack, said White House National Security Council spokesman Ned Price.
Tunisia has been praised for its democratic progress since its 2011 uprising ousted autocrat Zine Abidine Ben Ali.
But fighting Islamist militants has become a major challenge for a country heavily reliant on tourism for its revenues. More than 3,000 Tunisians have left to fight for militant groups in Iraq, Syria and neighboring Libya.