Newspapers are reporting that several gunmen stormed a popular museum in Tunis, Tunisia today killing 17 tourists, as well as a police officer and Tunisian civilians. Some news accounts report that as many as two dozen people were also injured.
Two cruise ships were in port and had sent thousands of passengers into the city on excursions. CNN says that some of the cruise passengers were at the museum at the time of the attack. The Daily Mail reports that "a Tunisian tourist guide told how he ‘stared death in the face’ as terrorists opened fire on his clients in the attack which saw people shot as they exited cruise ship buses parked outside the museum."
CBS News says that the terrorists targeted tourist buses when they arrived at the museum. The terrorists, dressed in police uniforms, then opened fire on the tourists before they could reach the museum.
According to the Italian newspaper, The Local, a Costa cruise ship, the Fascinosa, with 3,161 registered passengers, was docked in Tunis at the time of the attack. Costa issued the following statement:
"On the occasion of today scheduled call some guests on cruise on board our Costa Fascinosa had a tour in the city. All the shore excursions organized by Costa during today stop in Tunis have been immediately recalled on board," the company said in a statement.
CNN says that the MSC Splendida was also in Tunis at the time of the attack.
The Italian newspaper stated that the Bardo museum is visited regularly by tourists, with many disembarking from Mediterranean cruises.
Commentators believe that the group is affiliated with an Islamic terrorist organization like ISIS. Tunisia is a major recruiting ground for ISIS.
The siege was the most violent attack on tourists in over a decade.
Mail Online has dramatic photos and video of the attack.
Costa stated on its website that the Costa Fascinosa left the port of Tunis at 1:55 PM. Upon departure, the captain reported that 13 passengers had not returned to the ship.
This is a scenario which we have been concerned about. Read our recent article: Experts: ISIS Poses Terrorist Threat to Cruise Ships in Mediterranean.
March 19 2015 Update: USA Today reports that "MSC Cruises said nine passengers from the Splendida were killed, 12 injured and six unaccounted-for, according to the AP. The Costa Fascinosa said 13 passengers had not returned on board when the ship left the port."
March 20 2015 Update: Update on Terror Attack Against Cruise Tourists in Tunis
March 21 2015: Is Cruising Safe? A Chilling Look at an Industry Under Seige – an article I wrote for Yahoo Travel.
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