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Tunisia's President Declares Emergency, Says More Attacks Could Cause Country to 'Collapse'

President Beji Caid Essebsi declared a state of emergency nine days after 38 tourists were shot dead at a popular beach resort in the country.

by Tessa Stuart
Jul 4 2015, 8:05pm

Photo par Mohamed Messara/EPA

Tunisia's president declared a state of emergency on Saturday, nine days after 38 tourists were shot dead at a popular beach resort in the city of Sousse. 

The gunman was killed at the scene, but the so-called Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the massacre. Eight suspected co-conspirators were arrested earlier this week, and three more are wanted by Tunisian authorities in connection with the attack.

The shooting in Sousse was the second terrorist attack Tunisia in four months. On March 18, three gunmen shot 22 people at the Bardo National Museum outside the capital Tunis.

IS also claimed responsibility for that attack, but the government believes the members of a local militant group Okba Ibn Nafaa were to blame. Both attacks appeared to target Tunisia's tourism industry.

Related: Video Emerges of Chase of Tunisia Beach Attack Gunman

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi speaking during a press conference in Tunis on July 4, 2015. (Photo via EPA/Tunisian Presidency Press Service)

The state of emergency, which President Beji Caid Essebsi said would remain in effect for at least 30 days, expands the powers of the nation's security forces and allows the army to operate in cities, a practice that is normally prohibited.

The new measures follows previous steps taken by the government in the wake of the recent attack to bolster security and reassure both citizens and travelers that Tunisia is safe. A thousand troops were deployed to resorts around the country last week, and some 80 mosques accused of inciting violence were ordered to close.

Related: Graphic Video Shows Bodies Strewn Across the Beach During Rampage at Tunisian Resort

The last time a state of emergency was declared in Tunisia was during the Arab Spring uprising that unseated President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011. That order remained in effect through March 2014.

When Essebsi reintroduced the measures on Saturday, he explained the decision by saying that "if attacks like Sousse happen again, the country will collapse."

In the speech, he also appealed for material assistance from the international community. "In order to face up to this scourge we need to be prepared. We need to have enough troops, proper training and material means — we are in desperate need of material means," Essebsi said. 

Follow Tessa Stuart on Twitter: @tessastuart

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