Security officials charged with protecting Tunisia’s parliament and the neighboring National Bardo Museum were on a coffee break when gunmen stormed the museum Wednesday and open fired on foreign tourists, Abdelfattah Mourou, Tunisia’s first deputy speaker of parliament, told Gulf News Friday. Mourou said four police officers were assigned to guard the compound Wednesday, but two were at a café, the third was on a break eating a snack and the fourth never showed up for duty.
“There were no police around parliament and the museum,” Mourou said, according to Gulf News, an English-language newspaper based in the United Arab Emirates. “It’s a big failure.”
Authorities in Tunisia increased security presence Friday over fears of further attacks. Security officials were deployed to sites including the main Mediterranean port in the capital city of Tunis and at the headquarters of state broadcaster Radio Tunisia, which had received threats, according to the Washington Post. Wednesday’s attack, for which the Islamic State group claimed responsibility, killed 23 people, including foreign tourists and children.
Two of the assailants were killed by Tunisian security forces and later identified as Yassine Laabidi and Hatem Khachnaoui. Four relatives of Khachnaoui were arrested Wednesday night in Kasserine, near the border with Algeria. Tunisian authorities said Thursday nine people had been arrested in connection with the museum massacre.
One day before the attack, Tunisia’s newly elected parliament discussed the issue of security with police and army officials, who said they lacked equipment. Just before the museum raid, members of parliament were set to discuss the country’s jihad problem and how to counter the growing threat from border countries.