Tunisia: four killed in attack on oldest synagogue in Africa in Djerba island
Four people have been killed on Tunisia's Djerba island in an attack on an annual pilgrimage in celebrations of the oldest synagogue in Africa that draws hundreds of Jews from Europe and Israel.
"The Ministry of the Interior confirms that the temple has been cordoned off and … all those inside and outside the temple have been secured, and research is continuing to find out the reasons for this treacherous and cowardly attack," the ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
The attack on Tuesday was carried out by a guard from Tunisia's National Guard naval centre in the town of Aghir on Djerba. He first used his weapon to shoot a colleague and seize his ammunition before moving towards Ghriba Synagogue, the interior ministry said in a statement.
The attacker fired indiscriminately at security units located near the synagogue.
Security forces then shot the attacker dead, the interior ministry said. The injured include six members of the security forces and four civilians, the ministry said.
The sound of gunshots at the synagogue sparked panic among the hundreds of pilgrims, according to witnesses.
Tunisian foreign ministry said the two visitors who were killed are French and Tunisian.
French media revealed the identity of the French victim who flew to Djerba to participate in the celebrations.
"Benjamin Haddad, in his forties and father of four, lived in Marseilles, where he ran a kosher bakery," reported French TV BFM.
Anne-Claire Legendre, the French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, condemned Tuesday the "heinous" attack, saying it "painfully recalls the suicide attack that killed 21 people in the same synagogue in 2002,' reported AFP.
Djerba, a holiday destination off the coast of southern Tunisia, 500km from the capital Tunis, is home to Africa's oldest synagogue.
The annual pilgrimage has had tight security since al-Qaeda attacked the religious site in April 2002 with a truck bomb that killed 21 tourists and injured more than thirty others.
According to organisers, over 5,000 Jewish faithful, mostly from overseas, participated in this year's pilgrimage to Ghriba, which resumed in 2022 after two years of a pandemic-related suspension.
Tunisia has no diplomatic ties with Israel, but Israelis are allowed entry into the country as part of organised tours to the island for the pilgrimage.
"Investigations are continuing to elucidate the reasons for this cowardly attack," added the Tunisian Ministry of the Interior on Tuesday.