Tunisia's interior minister said Thursday that the national guardsman behind an attack that killed five people this week had intentionally targeted the ancient synagogue on the Mediterranean island of Djerba in a premeditated act.
Interior Minister Kamel Fekih pledged to spare no effort to ensure the stability of the country and protect foreigners after the attack Tuesday, which killed three servicemen and two civilians attending an international pilgrimage at the Al Ghriba synagogue, believed to be one of the world’s oldest Jewish temples.
A dozen people were injured.
Tunisian authorities revealed the gunman's name — Wissam Khazri — and said he planned the attack, but gave no explanation of why. Fekih said the gunman was killed by security forces within 120 seconds of arriving outside the synagogue complex.
France's anti-terrorism prosecutor's office opened an investigation into the killing; a French citizen was among the victims. The interior minister called on security services to be vigilant for any efforts to destabilize the country.
On Wednesday President Kais Saied said that the country remains safe, despite the attack at the synagogue.
Kais Saied said that the goal of those behind the attack was to “sow the seeds of strife and hit the touristic season” that will start soon in the country.
Tunisia is mired in political and economic crises, and the synagogue attack is a new blow to its once-thriving tourism industry as well as to a vibrant Jewish community.
The island's historic Ghriba synagogue, thought to be one of the world’s oldest Jewish temples, is a popular pilgrimage destination. The synagogue attracted more pilgrims this year — around 6,000 people from the United States, Canada, Australia, Europe and beyond — than it had for some time, according to the chair of the synagogue's committee, Perez Trabelsi.
Four other members of Tunisia's security forces remain hospitalized in Djerba, including one in critical condition.