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Eight dead in Tunis museum massacre

Eight dead in Tunis museum massacre

Gunmen opened fire at a leading museum in Tunisia's capital, leaving at least eight dead and six wounded, including foreign tourists, authorities said.

Security forces filled the area around the National Bardo Museum in Tunis after the attack.

Tunisia's parliament building, near the museum, was being evacuated, according to a tweet by parliament member Sayida Ounissi.

Three men dressed in military-style clothing may have taken hostages inside the museum, private radio station Radio Mosaique said.

Interior ministry spokesman Mohamed Ali Aroui said on Wataniya television that eight were dead - seven foreign tourists and one Tunisian. He did not provide nationalities for the foreign victims.

Poland's foreign ministry announced that three Poles were among the wounded.

It was the first attack on a tourist site in years in Tunisia, a shaky young democracy that has struggled to keep Islamic extremist violence at bay.

It was not immediately clear who the attackers were, or if they took hostages.

Tunisia recently completed a rocky road to democracy after overthrowing its authoritarian president in 2011. It has been more stable than other countries in the region but it has struggled with violence by Islamic extremists in recent years, including some linked to Islamic State. It also has extremists linked to al Qaida's North Africa arm who occasionally target Tunisian security forces.

A disproportionately large number of Tunisian recruits - some 3,000, according to government estimates - have joined IS fighters in Syria and Iraq.

The violence that Tunisia has seen in recent years has been largely focused on security forces, not foreigners or tourist sites.

The attack is a blow to Tunisia's efforts to revive its tourism industry.

The National Bardo Museum, built within a 15th-century palace, is the largest museum in Tunisia with collections covering two floors, and it houses one of the world's largest collections of Roman mosaics.

The museum is near the North African country's parliament, some four kilometres (two-and-a-half miles) from the city centre. A new wing with contemporary architecture was built as part of a 2009 renovation, doubling the surface area. Some 8,000 works are displayed in the museum, according to the website.

The attack comes the day after Tunisian security officials confirmed the death in neighbouring Libya of a leading suspect in Tunisian terror attacks and the killings of two opposition figures in Tunisia.

Ahmed Rouissi gained the nickname of the "black box of terrorism". The information on his death was made public by security officials giving evidence in parliament and cited by the official TAP news agency.

Libya, which has devolved into chaos, is a source of major concern for Tunisia.

Also a major worry is the Mount Chaambi area on the border with Algeria where al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb has reportedly been helping a Tunisian group which has killed numerous soldiers.