June 27, 2019 / 10:54 AM / 22 days ago

One dead, several wounded in two suicide bomb attacks in Tunisian capital

TUNIS (Reuters) - Two suicide bombers blew themselves up in separate attacks on police in the Tunisian capital on Thursday, killing one police officer and wounding several other people, the government said.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks, the militant group’s Amaq news agency said on Thursday evening.

The attacks came months before an election and at the peak of a tourist season in which Tunisia is hoping for a record number of visitors.

The first suicide bomber targeted a police patrol in Charles de Gaulle Street in central Tunis. One police officer was killed and at least one other as well as three civilians were wounded, the Interior Ministry said.

Shortly afterwards, a second bomber blew himself up near a police station in the al-Gorjani district. Four people were wounded, the ministry said.

Heavily armed police cordoned off the locations of the attacks, one of which was about 200 meters away from the French embassy. Reuters witnesses saw people rushing away from the scene, while the body of one suicide bomber lay on the ground.

“I was shopping with my daughter and we heard a big explosion. We saw the body of the terrorist lying on the ground near a police vehicle after he blew himself up,” said a man who give his name only as Mohamed.

Interior Ministry spokesman Sofian Zaak said the attackers had not yet been identified, and he called on the public to show strength and not panic.

Tunisia has been battling militant groups operating in remote areas near the border with Algeria since an uprising overthrew autocratic leader Zine Abidine Ben Ali in 2011. High unemployment has also stoked unrest in recent years.

Last October, a woman blew herself up in the center of the capital Tunis, wounding 15 people including 10 police officers in an explosion that broke a long period of calm after dozens had died in militant attacks in 2015.

Slideshow (4 Images)

Security has improved since authorities imposed a state of emergency in November 2015 after those attacks - one at a museum in Tunis and another on a beach in the Mediterranean seaside town of Sousse. A third attack targeted presidential guards in the capital. Islamic State claimed responsibility.

The attacks scared off holidaymakers and investors, worsening the country’s economic problems.

Reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Hugh Lawson

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