Gunman kills four at Tunisia synagogue pilgrimage

Two worshippers and two security guards have been killed in a gun attack near Africa’s oldest synagogue, on the Tunisian island of Djerba.

The attack took place during an annual pilgrimage to the island, which attracts Jewish visitors from Europe and Israel.

A guard reportedly shot dead his partner before opening fire on visitors and security forces near the Ghriba synagogue before being killed himself.

His motivation was not clear.

The two dead worshippers were cousins.

They have been named by Israeli media as French national Benjamin Haddad, 42, and Aviel Haddad, 30, a dual citizen of Tunisia and Israel.

“They were shot – murdered in cold blood. They were just in the car park and were supposed to go in, in front of the entrance for the security check,” relative Mordechai Madar told Israeli radio station 103FM.

Tunisia’s former tourism minister René Trabelsi, who organised the pilgrimage and was inside at the time, said the two cousins had tried to hide behind a bus outside the synagogue, Reuters news agency reports. 

“We heard the shots and knew it was related to an attack,” he said.

Four other visitors and five members of the security forces were injured.

Video posted online, that has not been independently verified, showed visitors running as gunshots rang out. Tunisia’s interior ministry said that investigations were continuing to establish the motive for the “cowardly” attack.

The French government “condemns this heinous act in the strongest terms,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre said.

More than 5,000 Jews participated in the 2022 pilgrimage to Ghriba, AFP news agency reported, citing local organisers.It is not the first time the 2,500-year-old synagogue has been targeted.

In 2002 a bomb attack, claimed by al-Qaeda Islamist militants, killed more than 20 people on the island.

The annual pilgrimage to Djerba – about 500km (310 miles) from the capital, Tunis – has had tight security since the bombing.

Tunisia is a majority-Muslim country, but Djerba is home to hundreds of Jews.

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