The Tunisian Parliament came under attack early on Wednesday afternoon after armed men dressed as soldiers opened fire near the assembly and took dozens of hostages at the Bardo Museum.
The two armed gunmen were later 'eliminated' by Special Forces after a two-and-half hour hostage crisis. Mohamed Ali Aroui, an interior ministry spokesman, called the attackers Islamists, a CNN report said.
Tourists were shot dead as they stepped off a bus outside the museum, reports further added. "Two militants opened fire on the tourists as they were getting off the buses before fleeing into the museum," one Bardo employee told Reuters at the scene.
According to an AFP report, armed men entered the Bardo Museum through the parliament, taking several tourists as hostage.
Interior Ministry spokesman Ali al-Aroui told local media the death toll has risen to 20, which includes 18 foreigners and 2 Tunisians. Over 20 people, including several tourists, were also injured in the terror attack.
However, it is feared that the number could go up as there could be more dead bodies inside the museum.
Three of the dead are from Japan, while other are from Italy, Colombia, Spain, Australia, Poland and France.
According to the Italian foreign ministry in Rome, two Italians were wounded in the attack. It also reported that there were 100 Italian tourists in the area when the shooting began. They were later taken to safety by Tunisian police.
Al Arabiya News Channel reported that the shots were fired while the parliament was in session.
The Bardo Museum is described as "a jewel of Tunisian heritage" and boasts a collection of mosaics, including one of poet Virgil, as well as marble sculptures, furniture, jewels and other artifacts from the Roman era.
Tunisia Attack Live Blog -
7.30 pm (IST): Tunisian Interior Ministry says all foreign hostages trapped inside Bardo Museum have been rescued after the two militants were gunned down by security forces.
7.25 pm (IST): Confirmed - Tunisian interior ministry says two gunmen killed, hostage situation ended.
7.20 pm (IST): Police have just arrested a suspicious man near Tunisia museum where gunmen killed 8. The security personnel covered the man's face before taking him away.
7.15 pm (IST): Unconfirmed reports on social media claim that two terrorists inside Bardo Museum have been killed. Hostages are being evacuated. (via @hendhassassi)
7.10 pm (IST): Foreign Office urges British travellers to avoid Bardo Museum
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to:
- the Chaambi Mountain National Park area
- the Tunisia-Algeria border crossing points at Ghardimaou, Hazoua and Sakiet Sidi Youssef
- the militarised zone south of, but not including, the towns of El Borma and Dhehiba
- within 5 km of the Libya border area from north of Dhehiba up to, but not including the Ras Ajdir border crossing
The FCO advise against all but essential travel to:
- areas south of, and including, the towns of Nefta, Douz, Médenine, Zarzis (including the Tunisia-Libya border crossing point at Ras Ajdir)
- within 30 km of the border with Algeria south of, and including, the town of Jendouba
- the governorate of Kasserine, including the town of Sbeitla
If you travel to the interior of Tunisia, you should do so with a reputed tour guide.
7.05 pm (IST): French digital channel Itele spoke to French tourist Geraldine while the attack was still going on. She was hiding on the third floor of the Bardo Museum along with 40 French nationals. Shots can be heard during the interview.
Live Audio coversation with a French hostage trapped inside Bardo Museum.
7.02 pm (IST): Watch live video from Bardo museum
Here is the scene at the Bardo compound in Tunisia as hostages escape terror attack pic.twitter.com/d05GbuiA6T
— Borzou Daragahi (@borzou) March 18, 2015
7.00 pm (IST): Tunisian TV show live footage of Bardo hostages escaping as security forces provide cover
Tunisia television showing amazing footage of hostages escaping museum as security forces provide cover pic.twitter.com/t3Hex1cXNj
— Borzou Daragahi (@borzou) March 18, 2015
6.58 pm (IST): Emerging reports claim that at least 21 were injured, including four Polish nationals. The injured have been taken to Charles-Nicole Hospital.
6.55 pm (IST): Tunisia government has called in an emergency meeting to discuss on the terror attack near its parliament. Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi has announced that he will be addressing the nation tonight.
6.52 pm (IST): At the time of the attack at Bardo Museum, ambassadors of Poland and China were meeting MPs at the Tunisian parliament. Reports claim they have been evacuated safely. (Via @souamesfarah)
Watch Live Coverage of Tunisia Hostage Situation
6.50 pm (IST): Tunisian MP Sayida Ounissi says on her Twitter account that when the attack took place, the MPs were working on a law against terrorism. She tweeted that besides the MPs there was the justice minister, judges and several army officers in the building at the time of the attack. (Via @SaidaOunissi)
6.47 pm (IST): Reports claim that a pro-ISIS Twitter account predicted the Tunisia attack hours before the gunmen stormed the Museum near the Parliament. (via @p_vanostaeyen @LBC)
6.45 pm (IST): Two British nationals are among the eight confirmed dead in the siege, according to reports. A French, an Italian, a Spaniard and a Tunisian were also killed, according to local media reports. (Via @borzou)
6.40 pm (IST): Tunisian special forces have stormed Bardo Museum. The gunmen are still in the museum fighting the security forces.
6.35 pm (IST): 8 injured tourists have been evacuated from Bardo Museum and are being rushed to hospital. Four of the injured are from Poland. Via @ILNewsFlash
6.32 pm (IST): Tunisian security forces have entered the museum building and the entire area including the parliament has been cordoned off.
— Kristina Dei (@2kdei) March 18, 2015
6.30 pm (IST): Social media reports claim 10 hostages still remain inside Bardo museum.
6.27 pm (IST): Tunisian security forces reportedly have secured a part of the museum and freed dozens of hostages.
6.25 pm (IST): Video shows Tunisia parliamentarians being evacuated after Bardo came under attack.
6.20 pm (IST): Apart from tourists, there are also a lot of children at the Bardo Museum as it is the spring break in Tunisia. Social media pictures show children as young as two years among the group of hostages.
6.15 pm (IST): Dozens of social media pictures show hostages huddling by the walls at Bardo Museum.
6.10 pm (IST): According to Tunisia's interior ministry eight were killed in the attack on Bardo Museum. There are seven foreign tourists among the hostages.
6.05 pm (IST): Gunmen dressed as soldiers entered the museum, which stands adjacent to the national parliament building.
6.00 pm (IST) - Gunshots broke out at the country's parliament around midday and casualties were reported, according to state media agency TAP.