SUN 8 - 12 - 2019
Jun 28, 2019
The Daily Star
Tunisian president ‘stable’ after health crisis
Double suicide blasts rock Tunisia capital
TUNIS: Tunisia’s presidency said in statement Thursday that 92-year-old President Beji Caid Essebsi was stable and undergoing the necessary checkups.
Earlier in the day, the presidency said Essebsi, a major player in the country’s transition to democracy since 2011, was taken to a military hospital after suffering a “severe health crisis.”
At the time, one of Essebsi’s advisers told Reuters he was in a “very critical” condition but was alive.
Prime Minister Youssef Chahed said on Facebook Essebsi was receiving the attention he needed and that people should stop spreading fake news about his condition, after some reports said the president had died.
The elderly head of state was hospitalized last week as well, for what the presidency described as non-serious treatment.
Essebsi has been a prominent figure in Tunisia since the overthrow of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, which was followed by uprisings against autocratic leaders across the Middle East.
Tunisia set itself on a path to democracy without much of the violence seen elsewhere, although it has been the target of militant Islamists over the years.
Two suicide bombers blew themselves up in attacks on police in Tunis Thursday, killing an officer and wounding at least eight people.
One attacker detonated explosives in a busy commercial district near the French Embassy shortly before 11 a.m., apparently targeting a police patrol. One of the officers died from his injuries, and another was injured along with three bystanders.
Daesh claimed responsibility for the attacks in the capital. At nearly the same time, a second bomber struck at an entrance to the anti-terrorism brigade on the outskirts of the city. Four officers were hospitalized with injuries. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks.
“It is a cowardly terrorist operation... [to] destabilize Tunisians, the economy and democratic transition,” Chahed told reporters, noting that it happened as the tourist season was in full swing.
“These [terrorist] groups don’t belong in Tunisia and our war against them is ... a question of life or death,” the prime minister added.
The twin attacks come ahead of presidential and legislative elections, scheduled for October and November.
After the overthrow of Ben Ali, Essebsi led the immediate transition as prime minister in 2011. He was elected president three years later. Essebsi had also been a senior figure before 2011, having served as foreign minister under state founder Habib Bourguiba and parliamentary speaker under Ben Ali.
In June, he said he would not run for a second term in elections this year, despite his party calling for him to stand. Parliamentary elections are expected to be held on Oct. 6 with a presidential vote following on Nov. 17.
Under a new constitution guaranteeing democratic freedoms, Essebsi has limited powers compared with Ben Ali, and he is mainly responsible for foreign and defense policies.
Double suicide blasts rock Tunisia capital
TUNIS: Two suicide bombers attacked security forces in the Tunisian capital Thursday, killing a police officer and wounding at least eight people including several civilians, the interior ministry said.
One attack on the main street of Tunis wounded three civilians and two police personnel, the interior ministry initially said.
"Five [are] wounded – three civilians and two police officers," Interior Ministry spokesperson Sofiene Zaag told AFP, before later saying that a police officer had died of his wounds.
Body parts were strewn in the road around a police car on Habib Bourguiba avenue near the old city, according to an AFP correspondent.
"It was a suicide attack, which took place at 10:50 (0950 GMT)," Zaag said.
The second attack targeted a base of the national guard in the capital and wounded four security personnel, the ministry said.
"At 11:00 a.m. (1000 GMT) an individual blew himself up outside the back door" of the base, wounding four security personnel, Zaag said.
Civil protection units and police rapidly deployed to Habib Bourguiba avenue, where the interior ministry is located.
People initially fled in panic, before some crowded around the scene of the attack, expressing anger against the authorities. Shops and offices were closed by police.
Tunisia, the cradle of the Arab Spring uprisings, has been hit by repeated Islamist attacks since the 2011 overthrow of longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
On Oct. 29, 2018 an unemployed graduate blew herself up near police cars on Habib Bourguiba, killing herself and wounding 26 people, mostly police officers, according to the interior ministry.
The Tunisian authorities said the suicide bomber had sworn allegiance to Daesh (ISIS).
The attack was the first to rock the Tunisian capital for over three and a half years.
In March 2015, militant gunmen killed 21 tourists and a policeman at the National Bardo Museum in Tunis.
And in June that year, 30 Britons were among 38 foreign holidaymakers killed in a gun and grenade attack on a beach resort near the Tunisian city of Sousse.
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