Eight people have died in an attack at the Bardo National Museum in Tunisia’s capital, Tunis, Mohamed Ali Aroui, a spokesman for the Tunisian interior ministry, said on national radio, CNN reports.
Aroui also said on national television that two men, dressed in military garb, had gone into the museum and opened fire. Aroui called them Islamists.
A hostage situation is underway at the museum, the Tunisian Interior Ministry told CNN.
Housed in a palace dating to the 19th century, the museum describes itself as “a jewel of Tunisian heritage.” It explores Tunisian art, culture and history and boasts a collection of mosaics, including one of the poet Virgil, as well as marble sculptures, furniture, jewels and other artifacts.
The Tunisian Parliament building was being evacuated shortly after noon Wednesday, Tunisian lawmaker Sayida Ounissi said on Twitter amid reports of gunfire near the building.
This came after Reuters reported, citing local radio, that three gunmen attacked the building, and that gunmen also may have taken a hostage from a nearby museum.
Tunisia was where the Arab Spring — anti-government protests that spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa and sparked revolutions in some of those countries — took root in December 2010. A poor 26-year-old man set himself on fire in front of a Tunisian government building that month after police confiscated his vegetable cart, sparking protests.
Tunisia’s then-President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali and his family fled the next month, and in October 2001, Tunisia held its first free elections in the country’s modern history, seating a new Parliament.
In recent months, the Tunisian security forces have been working against threats from Islamist militants. The government, for example, has been battling a ihadist presence in the Chaambi Mountains.
And in February, the country’s Interior Ministry announced the arrests of about 100 alleged extremists, and published a video allegedly showing the group possessed a formula for making explosives and a photograph of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
An estimated 2,500 and 3,000 Tunisians are believed to have travelled to Iraq and Syria, most to oin ISIS.