TUNIS : A suicide bomber blew himself up in the Tunisian tourist resort of Sousse on Wednesday, the first such assault since 2002 in a country now battling militants empowered by chaos in neighbouring Libya.
Police foiled another attack when they arrested a would-be suicide bomber at former President Habib Bourguiba’s tomb in the seaside town of Monastir, security sources said.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the Islamist-led government has been combating Ansar al-Sharia militants it says are tied to al Qaeda’s North Africa affiliate. The first bomber had initially sought to enter a hotel in Sousse with a suitcase, police said. “The bomber had tried to get into the hotel, but when he was not allowed in, he ran onto the beach and blew himself up,” a security source said. The bombing is bad news for the vital tourism industry in Tunisia, which attracted 5.8 million mostly European visitors to its Mediterranean beaches and desert tours in 2012. Tourism is still recovering from the 2011 uprising that toppled the North African country’s autocratic leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.
The rise to power of an elected Islamist-led government has fuelled fears of many secular Tunisians that women’s rights and liberal educational traditions may be eroded.
The authorities say such militants have acquired weapons and training in neighbouring Libya, where the central government has failed to impose order since Muammar Gaddafi fell in 2011.
Ennahda accused Ansar al-Sharia militants of being behind the assassination of two secular opposition leaders this year.