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The investigation continues in Tunisia after the attack on a synagogue in Djerba

The reasons for the deadly shooting in Tunisia are still unclear. Five people, including a Frenchman, were killed on Tuesday evening near a synagogue on the island of Djerba. Emmanuel Macron said he was “upset” by this attack. The Tunisian authorities are trying to lift the veil on the circumstances of the attack and determine in particular whether it is an isolated act or a terrorist attack. Update on the latest events.

What happened ?

While the annual Jewish pilgrimage was in full swing on Tuesday evening, two worshipers and three gendarmes, according to a latest report, were killed by an agent of the Tunisian maritime guard who opened fire in front of the Ghriba synagogue. The attack took place in two stages, the ministry said in a statement. The gendarme who fired first shot and killed one of his colleagues in the port of Djerba and seized his ammunition. Then he went to the outskirts of the synagogue, about fifteen kilometers away, where he opened fire on the police ensuring the security of the place before being shot.

In an interview with Mosaïque FM radio, the former Tunisian Minister of Tourism indicated that “without the rapid intervention of the security forces, carnage would have taken place because hundreds of visitors were on the scene”. “Around 8 p.m. we heard the sound of gunfire. The police closed all the doors and we couldn’t get out. We couldn’t do anything for more than three hours,” one of the worshipers in the synagogue, Elyahu, an elderly man from Israel, told AFP. “Some were praying, others were crying,” he added.

Also present in the place of worship, Raoudha Seibi, of the Tunisian Association for the Support of Minorities, claims to have lived “a real nightmare”. “I saw people running in all directions. I never believed that I would experience such terror, I am in shock until now,” she told AFP in tears. “The shots were so close.”

Who are the victims ?

The two faithful were “a 30-year-old Tunisian and a 42-year-old Frenchman”, said the Tunisian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, without providing their identities. According to René Trabelsi, a figure of the Tunisian Jewish community present in the synagogue at the time of the attack, the faithful killed are two cousins: Aviel Haddad, a Tunisian Jew, and Benjamin Haddad who resided in France. Denouncing a “violent attack”, the Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs, Eli Cohen, affirmed that Aviel Haddad also held Israeli nationality.

Four other people were injured and evacuated to a hospital, authorities said. Six gendarmes were also injured. Two of them succumbed to their injuries, according to a new report obtained Wednesday from a hospital source. Five deaths are therefore to be deplored.

Where is the investigation?

A security device has been deployed around the perimeter of the synagogue, closing all the roads giving access to it, AFP correspondents on the spot noted on Wednesday morning. “A preliminary criminal investigation has been opened,” Fethi Bakkouche, spokesperson for the court in Medenine (southeast), on which the island of Djerba depends, told AFP. “The investigation is underway to determine the responsibilities involved in this cowardly attack,” the Tunisian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Authorities have yet to determine whether the attack was the result of an isolated act or a terrorist attack. Several countries called it an anti-Semitic attack, like Emmanuel Macron. Rome denounced “a cowardly attack against the Tunisian Jewish community. »

The Ghriba synagogue, the oldest in Africa, had already been targeted in 2002 by a suicide truck bomb attack that killed 21 people.

Is Tunisia a privileged target?

Organized on the 33rd day of Passover, the Ghriba pilgrimage is at the heart of the traditions of Tunisians of the Jewish faith, who are no more than 1,500, mostly settled in Djerba, against 100,000 before independence in 1956. Pilgrims also come traditionally from European countries, the United States or even Israel, but their number decreased considerably after the 2002 attack.

The attack comes as tourism is rebounding strongly in Tunisia after a sharp slowdown during the pandemic. This key sector for the economy had been seriously affected after the 2015 attacks against the Bardo museum in Tunis and a hotel in the seaside resort of Sousse, the toll of which had risen to 60 dead including 59 foreign tourists. “Like all other countries, Tunisia is not spared from this kind of destabilization attempt,” Tourism Minister Mohamed Moez Belhassine said on Wednesday from Djerba, Tunisia’s top tourist destination. “We are mobilized to make the tourist season a success. »

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