UPDATE 11:33 a.m. EDT -- Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid said 17 foreign nationals and two locals were killed in a parliament complex attack Wednesday by two militant gunmen. He called the assault a "cowardly terrorist operation," according to ABC News. The tourist casualties were from Poland, Germany, Italy and Spain, he said. Carina D. Klein, a spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Tunis, told ABC News they could not confirm whether Americans were caught in the attack.
Essid said the tourists were attacked as they were getting off a bus to enter the complex's Bardo Museum, noting that this is the first time tourists have been attacked in Tunisia. The attackers were dressed in military fatigues. As the tourists ran toward the museum to avoid the shooting, the attackers pursued them, said Essid. There were 22 tourists and two locals injured during the attack.
Two gunmen who attacked Tunisia's Parliament complex Wednesday, killing seven foreign tourists and one local, were killed by security forces nearly two hours after a hostage crisis unfolded at a popular museum in Tunis, the North African country's capital. More than 20 people were admitted to a hospital in central Tunis after the attack at the complex's Bardo Museum, where reportedly 30 people were held hostage by the militants. The two assailants were reported to have been killed at 3 p.m. local time, according to local media.
Al Jazeera and the BBC both published live streams of the hostage crisis. The victims reportedly included two tourists from Britain, one from France, one from Italy, one from Spain and two others, according to a tweet from Borzou Daragahi, Middle East correspondent for Financial Times.
BREAKING: 8 dead in #Tunisia Bardo museum hostage-taking include 2 Britons, 1 French, 1 Italian, 1 Spaniard, 1 Tunisian and 2 unknown
â€” Borzou Daragahi (@borzou) March 18, 2015
The museum had about 100 tourists inside when the two attackers armed with Kalashnikov rifles sought cover from security forces at the government complex, said Interior Ministry spokesman Mohamed Ali, according to the BBC. Most of the tourists escaped as security forces surrounded the museum, according to Reuters.
â€” IBTimes (@IBTimes) March 18, 2015
The militants’ affiliations were not known yet, but Tunisia’s armed forces have been fighting Islamist militants who emerged after 2011's so-called Arab Spring uprising. Tunisia has one of the largest numbers of foreign fighters with the Islamic State group, with 3,000 estimated Tunisians having joined since last October.