Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond:
I wish to update the House on the terrorist attack in Tunis on 18 March. I condemn this despicable murder of innocent people.
A small group of terrorists attacked the Bardo Museum in central Tunis at around 11:30am GMT on 18 March. The gunmen fired on foreign tourists disembarking from buses outside the museum (adjacent to the Parliament building). As people took refuge in the museum, they were trapped inside by the gunmen. Tunisian security forces later entered the museum, killed 2 of the attackers and, we understand, arrested a third, bringing the incident to an end. The attack resulted in the death of 2 Tunisians and at least 20 foreign tourists, including one British national.
As details of the attack became known, British Embassy consular staff deployed quickly to hospitals and to 2 cruise ships at the port, to check on the welfare of British nationals. They learned of a possible UK casualty whose location was, at that time, unknown. At around 6:00pm GMT they learned the likely location of the casualty in hospital and redeployed. They provided consular support to the family throughout this time. On the morning of 19 March we received confirmation that, very sadly, Sally Adey had been killed in the attack. We continue to provide her family with consular support. My thoughts are with them at this very difficult time.
The Prime Minister wrote to President Essebsi yesterday to express his condolences and assure him that Britain stood firmly with Tunisia in the face of this shared extremist threat. I spoke in similar terms to Prime Minister Habib Essid on the afternoon of the attack. I told him that the terrorists sought to undermine Tunisia’s successful transition to democracy, but that they would not succeed.
Since Tunisia’s revolution, the British Government has worked with the Tunisian Government in a number of areas, including security and counter terrorism, where we have provided training and equipment and shared expertise. We stand ready to provide further assistance, including through the deployment of police from the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command (SO15) to support the post attack investigation. SO15 and UK military Counter Terrorism experts will also be providing longer term capacity building. We will be working alongside EU partners and the US to help Tunisia manage the foreign fighter threat, whilst continuing to provide assistance in areas such as aviation security and tourist resort protection.
We are aware of reports that ISIL has claimed responsibility and given names of the attackers, but the Tunisian investigation is continuing and this information is as yet unconfirmed.
This brutal attack illustrates the threat from terrorism faced by Tunisia, and other countries in North Africa. Our Travel Advice prior to the attacks indicated that the threat of terrorism in Tunisia was high and that attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. We reviewed the threat level after the attack and the Travel Advice has been amended to indicate that further attacks are possible. We are not advising against travel to Tunisia. We keep our Travel Advice under constant review.