A policeman is dead after two militants riding a motorbike blew themselves up outside the US Embassy in Tunisia today.
Several others, including an embassy worker, were also injured in the North African country’s most serious attack in months.
The explosion took place near the main gate of the building in the capital Tunis, where a Reuters journalist saw a scorched, damaged motorbike and a damaged police vehicle lying amid debris as police gathered around and a helicopter whirled overhead. No group has yet claimed responsibility.
The Interior Ministry said two militants were killed carrying out the attack and five police were wounded, while a civilian suffered minor injuries. State news agency TAP reported that one policeman was killed.
A spokesman for the State Department said the United States was outraged by the attack and was saddened to hear reports of a fatality from Tunisia’s security services.
Adding that a locally hired employee of the embassy was among the injured, he said: ‘We are working with local authorities to investigate.’
Witness Amira, a local shopkeeper, explained: ‘We heard a very powerful explosion… we saw the remains of the “terrorist” lying on the ground after he went on the motorbike towards the police.’
Roads around security installations were closed in some parts of the capital and some international institutions were put on lockdown or evacuated.
Photographs of the blast site posted on social media showed damaged vehicles and debris strewn around the area of a security checkpoint that controls access to the embassy.
Last summer, Islamic State said it was behind militant blasts that struck the capital over the course of a week, including one near the French Embassy that killed a policeman.
Tunisia’s critical tourism sector is highly vulnerable to militant violence and was devastated after two attacks in 2015 which killed scores of visitors at a beach resort and a museum.
Diplomats who have worked with Tunisia on its security capacity say it has grown more effective in preventing and responding to militant attacks in recent years.
But local security analyst Ali Zarmedini said: ‘The attack indicates that the security challenge remains a major challenge in Tunisia.’