Worshippers, security guard killed in Tunisian synagogue shooting

At least three people were killed after a security guard began shooting near a synagogue on the Tunisian island of Djerba, the Ministry of Interior said on Tuesday.

The attacker was also dead.

According to the Tunisian Foreign Ministry, the Ghriba Synagogue visitors killed were a 30-year-old person from Tunisia and a 42-year-old person from France.

The third death was a security guard killed by the attacker, who was also a security guard.

The Interior Ministry said that late on Tuesday the attacker killed his colleague, seized ammunition and then opened fire randomly at security posts in the vicinity of the synagogue, where pilgrims are currently visiting. Security guards fired back killing the attacker, the ministry said.

Four civilians and five security personnel were also injured.

The synagogue was cordoned off and an investigation is underway to determine why this “this treacherous and cowardly attack” occurred, the Interior Ministry said.

The synagogue was hosting the festival for the Jewish holiday Lag Baomer, which is attended every year by many Jewish locals as well as pilgrims from Israel, France and other countries.

Lag Baomer, the Jewish festival of joy, traditionally interrupts the mourning period between Passover, which commemorates the liberation of the Jews from Egyptian slavery, and the harvest festival of Shavuot.

According to Israeli media reports, around 1,000 people were in the house of worship during the crime. Extra tight security is in place during the festival every year.

Videos circulated on social media appeared to show panicked people running through a neighbouring building to the synagogue while gunshots were heard.

According to the Jewish community, only about 1,800 Jews still live in Tunisia, most of them on Djerba.

In the middle of the 20th century, there were still 100,000 Jews in Tunisia.

In 2002, a suicide attack targeted the synagogue, leaving 21 dead, including 14 German tourists.

In 2015, the North African country saw a string of attacks that hit the tourism industry – its main source of income. Most of the attacks were claimed by extremist militia. (dpa/)