Deadly shooting at a Tunisian synagogue

Two visitors and two security guards were shot dead in a gun attack during an annual pilgrimage to a renowned Tunisian synagogue.

A police officer shot dead his partner and then opened fire on visitors and security forces near the Ghriba synagogue on the Tunisian island of Djerba during an annual pilgrimage, which attracts Jewish visitors from Europe and Israel.

The attack left four people dead, two visitors and two security guards. The assailant then killed himself. His motivation was not clear.

According to the Tunisian foreign ministry, one of the visitors killed was a French national, while the other was a dual citizen of Tunisia and Israel. Four other visitors and five members of the security forces were injured.

„Investigations are continuing in order to shed light on the motives for this cowardly aggression,” the interior ministry said, refraining from referring to the shooting as a terrorist attack.

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller condemned the shooting.

„The United States deplores the attack in Tunisia coinciding with the annual Jewish pilgrimage that draws faithful to the El Ghriba Synagogue from around the world,” he said on Twitter. „We express condolences to the Tunisian people and commend the rapid action of Tunisian security forces.”

The French embassy in Tunisia announced that it had set up a „crisis unit” and an emergency hotline following the attack.

Coming to the Ghriba synagogue on the Tunisian island of Djerba, Africa’s oldest, between Passover and Shavuot, is at the heart of Jewish tradition in Tunisia. Pilgrims also travel from Europe, the United States and Israel to take part, although their numbers have dropped since the attack in 2002 when a suicide truck bombing killed 21. This year, there were more than 5,000 Jewish pilgrims, mostly from overseas.