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Gunman Opens Fire at Tunisian Military Barracks Near Parliament

Tunisian officials say the attacker, who shot dead six people before killing himself, was a soldier with "behavioral issues" who was forbidden from carrying a weapon.

by Pierre Longeray
May 25 2015, 5:09pm

Photo by STR/EPA

A Tunisian soldier went on a shooting rampage Monday at a military barracks in the capital Tunis, killing seven fellow soldiers, officials have said. 

At least another 10 soldiers were injured in the attack at the Bouchoucha base, a stone's throw from the National Bardo Museum where Islamist gunmen killed 21 people, mostly foreign tourists, in March.

Around 8.45am local time, the soldier attacked one of his colleagues with a knife and snatched his gun, presidential spokesman Moez Sinaoui told French daily Le Monde. The soldier then opened fire on his fellow troops, before being killed. According to Reuters, an army colonel is among the victims.

Speaking on Monday, Sinaoui said the shooter had "behavioral issues" and there did not appear to be "terrorist motives" behind the attack. Tunisian defense ministry spokesman Belhassen Oueslati said the soldier had been forbidden from carrying a weapon because of "troubled behavior due to family problems."

Related: Islamic State Claims Responsibility For Deadly Bardo Museum Attack In Tunis

Since the Bardo museum attack, when gunmen wearing military uniforms killed 22 people, including 18 foreign tourists, the Bouchoucha barracks has become a key position for Tunisia's security forces. The country's Anti-Terrorism Brigade (BAT) and the special armed forces are both based at the barracks, which is situated very close to Tunisia's parliament.

On Monday morning, Tunisia's elite BAT squad cordoned off the military base and two military helicopters hovered over the area, as armed forces checked the surrounding buildings and mosques. Security forces also checked all vehicles parked in the area for car bombs and a local primary school was evacutated. Oueslati said the situation was under control by mid-morning.

In March, the Tunisian army released a video showing the BAT helping hundreds of tourists evacuate the building, before cornering and killing two of the attackers on the top floor of the museum.

Related: Tunisia Releases Video of Museum Attack, Arrests 23 Suspects

A week after the attack, Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid fired six police commanders, including the Tunis police chief and the Bardo security chief, citing several security "failures." Two of the Tunisian Parliament guards on duty during the attack were found to have been taking "a coffee break" during the attack.

Four years after the Arab Spring protests that led to the overthrow of autocratic ruler Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, insecurity persists in Tunisia, in part because of the terrorist groups that are active in the region. The country shares a border with Libya, where jihadists have gained strength from the Libyan conflict, and with Algeria, where al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has a base. Speaking to VICE News back in March, political analyst Hasni Abidi said "Tunisia's success is the downfall of jihadist movements," and that the country had emerged as an ideal target for those groups.

For now, though, officials have ruled out the terror motive in Monday's attack.

Related: Tunisia Attempts to Calm Citizens After Deadly Protests Over New Border Taxes

Follow Pierre Longeray on Twitter: @PLongeray

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