12:31 am - Saturday January 19, 2019

Suicide bomber hits Tunisian hotel, no victims

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Suicide bomber hits Tunisian hotel, no victims
Suicide bomber hits Tunisian hotel, no victims

A man blew himself up on Wednesday outside a luxury hotel in the eastern Tunisian coastal city of Sousse in the first suspected terrorist attack in years on the country’s vital tourist industry.

The attacker detonated his explosives on the beach outside the four-star Riadh Palm hotel after being blocked by security guards from entering the building, state El Wataniya 1 television reported.

No one else was injured.

The Interior Ministry confirmed the attack and said an investigation was under way.

Meanwhile, an 18-year-old man wearing a backpack stuffed with explosives was arrested on Wednesday at the mausoleum of the country’s founding President, Habib Bourguiba, an Interior Ministry spokesman told Mosaique FM radio.

The mausoleum is in Bourguiba’s hometown of Monastir, about 25 km north along the coast from Sousse.

The attack and arrest sent off alarm bells in the small North African country, which has been battling worsening security since the revolution that overthrew secular dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, the first in the so-called Arab Spring uprisings.

In recent weeks, Islamists have stepped up attacks on security forces as they clamp down on ultraconservative Salafist groups, such as Ansar al-Sharia.

Tunisia’s interim government, which is led by the moderate Islamist party Ennahda, accused Ansar al-Sharia of being behind the assassinations of two secular opposition politicians this year — allegations it rejected.

The attacks have dealt a blow to Tunisia’s attempts to woo back tourists that fled the country’s beaches in the aftermath of the revolution.

Until now, tourist areas had been mostly spared by the unrest.

The last major attack on a tourist site was in 2002 — when a truck carrying explosives was detonated in front of the ancient Ghriba synagogue on the island of Djerba, killing 14 German tourists, three Tunisians and two French nationals. Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for that attack.

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