Tunisia attack: Department had warned tourists of possible attack

The Department of Foreign Affairs had warned Irish tourists about the possibility of indiscriminate terrorist attacks in Tunisian cities, and on places visited by foreigners such as hotels and shopping centres.

Tunisia attack: Department had warned tourists of possible attack

In its latest travel advisory for Tunisia, the department said there had been an increase in terrorist activity in the country over the past two years.

A suicide bomb was detonated on the beach next to the Riadh Palm Hotel in Sousse — the scene of yesterday’s atrocity — on October 30, 2013.

The only reported casualty was the individual carrying the explosives.

A terrorist attack took place on March 18 last at the Bardo National Museum in central Tunis, which killed 24 people, including 20 foreign tourists, and many others were injured.

Clashes between armed groups and the Tunisian security forces have also occurred in the area of the southern border with Libya and in the Chaambi Mountains on the border with Algeria.

“Further attacks can’t be ruled out and these could be indiscriminate, including in major cities and places visited by foreigners like hotels and shopping centres,” the department warned.

In a detailed briefing on its website, the department said Tunisia is undergoing a period of political change following the “Jasmine Revolution” in 2011.

A state of emergency in place since 2011 was lifted in March 2014.

However, in the interim, the assassination of a political leader in February 2013, followed by a second assassination of a leading politician in July 2013, led to a wave of unrest and violent protests.

After a period of political stalemate, mediated negotiations between political parties led to an agreement in December 2013 for a caretaker government to run the country until new elections.

Parliamentary elections passed off peacefully on October 26, 2014, as did presidential elections in November and December 2014.

Tunisia’s new President, Beji Caid Essebsi, was sworn in on December 31.

The department advised travellers to avoid the country’s frequent demonstrations and protests, which mostly occur in major cities on Friday afternoons.

While demonstrations are not normally aimed at foreigners, international events can trigger anti-western protests, the department warned.

Violent protests took place in front of the US embassy in Tunis in September 2012 resulting in several deaths among protesters and significant damage to the embassy and an American school.

Tunisia’s borders with Libya and Algeria are open but the security situation is very tense.

The department said unrest in Libya is having a serious impact on the security of southern Tunisia, with a significant increase in cross-border trafficking and the availability of weapons, and occasional violent clashes between armed groups and the Tunisian security forces.

The department recommended that tourists should avoid all non-essential travel to Tunisia’s Greater South and to the border areas with Algeria.

It has also advised against travelling to the Chaambi Mountain National Park, to the crossing points in to Algeria at Ghardimao, Hazoua, and Sakiet Sidi Youssef, to the militarised zone south of the towns of El Borma and Dhehiba, or to within 5km of the Libyan border area from north of Dhehiba up to the Ras Ajdir border crossing, warning of a risk of kidnap from terrorists operating in the south of Tunisia, close to the border with Algeria.

Tourists must get permission from the Tunisian authorities to enter certain desert areas near the border with Algeria.

The department strongly advised Irish citizens to travel with a reputable tour operator or a licensed local guide if planning a trip to the region.

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