Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Tourists see suicide bomber explode

Tunisia is a popular destination for European tourists

A suicide bomber has blown himself up in front of horrified tourists in Tunisia, but no-one else was hurt in the incident.

The incident at a seaside hotel is believed to be the first suicide bombing ever in the country.

Since the country started the Arab Spring by overthrowing its long-ruling secular dictatorship, it has been battered by a rising Islamist insurgency in remote parts of the country. The violence is the first in a tourist area and raises fears for the country's already troubled tourism industry.

The bomber appeared to be about to enter the Riadh Palm hotel in Sousse, about 90 miles south of the capital Tunis, when he exploded. The Interior Ministry said that no one was injured and no property was damaged. It said the bomber was a Tunisian man and was wearing an explosive belt.

Police also arrested a man carrying explosives near the mausoleum of Habib Bourguiba, the country's first post-independence president, in the nearby city of Monastir. Both men appeared to belong to an extremist group, the ministry said.

Sousse has long been a major destination for European tourism, a sector that was just now recovering from a catastrophic drop following the country's 2011 revolution when tourists stayed away amid the unrest in the country. A security vacuum opened up and many long-repressed hardline Islamic groups appeared, some of whom armed themselves with weapons from civil war-wracked Libya to the east.

After tolerating hardline groups like Ansar al-Shariah, the moderate Islamist government banned them in September and began arresting members.

In the past year clashes have erupted in remote areas around the country as authorities discovered militant hideouts. Most recently six National Guardsmen were killed when they surrounded a house in the impoverished interior province of Sidi Bouzid and a policeman was killed in the northern town of Beja.

There are also frequent clashes with al-Qaida linked jihadists holed up in mountains along the Algerian border.

In February and then again July, prominent left-wing politicians were shot dead in front of their homes by alleged jihadists.

-AP

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