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Tunisians condemn murder of tourists at museum

27 March 2015


Defiant: more than 5000 Tunisians and foreign nationals march against terrorism, from Bab Saadoun Square  to the Tunisian parliament building next to the Bardo museum, on Tuesday  

Defiant: more than 5000 Tunisians and foreign nationals march against terrorism, from Bab Saadoun Square  to the Tunisian parliament...

THE majority of Tunisians consider the murder of at least 22 people, mostly foreign tourists, at the Bardo Museum in the capital last week, as a "grievous offence to their tradition of hospitality and welcome", the Assistant Bishop for the North Africa Episcopal Area and Rector of St George's, Tunis, the Rt Revd Bill Musk, has said.

Although security in the country has been strengthened, there are continuing concerns about the ability of jihadist groups to recruit young, jobless Tunisians.

Pope Francis was among religious leaders who offered prayers for the victims of the Bardo shooting, which Islamic State (IS) said it carried out. In a telegram to the Archbishop of Tunis, the Most Revd Ilario Antoniazzi, the Pope condemned the attack as "against peace and the sacredness of human life". He assured the families of the victims, all those affected by the incident, and the whole Tunisian people, of his continued prayers.

One of the murdered tourists was a solicitor from Shropshire, Sally Adey. The Bishop of Lincoln, the Rt Revd Christopher Lowson, said that he was "very deeply saddened and shocked when I heard of the terrible events in Tunisia, and subsequently learned about the impact that has had on the community of Scothern, where Sally Adey's family lives. For a holiday to end in such appalling circumstances is beyond anything that we could imagine."

Bishop Lowson said that it was important to remember that the killings in Tunis "were not in the name of the very great majority of peace-loving Muslim people, but the work of a small number of very badly misguided extremists; and the solidarity shown by the local Muslim people in Tunis with those who were killed and injured has been remarkable."

Bishop Musk, a resident of Tunis for seven years, experienced that reaction for himself. Since the killings, he said, "many Tunisians have . . . acknowledged in different ways the shame they feel that innocent tourists should honour their country by coming here, and especially by visiting the beautiful Bardo Museum, only to die there."

As with the assassinations a few years ago of two politicians, "this way of achieving one's ends is not the Tunisian way. To get to where they are today in the post-revolution world, Tunisians have learned to compromise and talk with one another, and find a way that gives a voice to all - except militant extremists - in their new politics."

On Monday, the Prime Minister, Habib Essid, sacked six police chiefs, saying that during his recent visit to the Bardo, several security failures had come to light. Extra police and security forces have been deployed at tourism sites and state buildings.

In an audio statement, IS said that two of its members had carried out the Bardo attack. It threatened more attacks in the country.

The killings represent a blow to Tunisia, the one Arab country to emerge from the chaos of the popular uprisings in relatively good shape. Bishop Musk agrees that security is a big concern as Tunisia sets out on the democratic path, "especially in the light of porous borders . . . and tactical expertise from extremists hiding in the mountains bordering Algeria".

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