Authorities in Tunisia are looking into a police officer’s shooting rampage that claimed five lives and sparked mass panic during a Jewish pilgrimage at Africa’s oldest synagogue on Wednesday.
Security personnel cordoned off the area on Djerba island as officials investigated whether the gunshots on Tuesday were a random killing spree or an anti-Semitic terrorist act.
The police officer first killed a colleague and took his ammunition, then went to the Ghriba synagogue and opened fire, sparking terror on the final day of the annual pilgrimage.
Wearing his uniform and a bulletproof vest, he shot dead two visitors and injured two more. In the ensuing gun battle, he also wounded six police officers, two of whom later died, hospital sources said.
The assailant was then shot dead himself, the interior ministry said, without identifying him.
Former tourism minister Rene Trabelsi who was at the synagogue during the shootings, named the visitors killed as Tunisian Aviel Haddad, 30, and his France-based cousin, dual national Benjamin Haddad, 42.
The killing spree was Tunisia’s first on foreigners since 2015, and the first to target the Ghriba pilgrimage since a suicide vehicle bombing in 2002 killed 21 people.
France “condemns this heinous act in the strongest terms,” said Anne-Claire Legendre, a spokesperson for the foreign ministry.
“The United States deplores the attack in Tunisia, which coincides with the annual Jewish pilgrimage that draws faithful from around the world to the El Ghriba Synagogue,” said US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller earlier.
The pilgrimage to Ghriba is at the heart of Jewish tradition in Tunisia, where only about 1,500 members of the faith still live — mainly on Djerba — compared with around 100,000 before independence in 1956.
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