TUNIS — A Tunisian soldier opened fire on fellow troops inside the central army barracks in the capital on Monday morning, killing seven soldiers and wounding 10 others, the Tunisian Defense Ministry said. The soldier was killed in an exchange of fire.
The shooting caused alarm in the capital, Tunis, where security forces have been on full alert since two gunmen attacked the National Bardo Museum in March, killing 21 tourists and a police officer. The police blamed extremist Islamist groups that had trained the Tunisian gunmen in camps in western Libya for that attack.
It was not immediately clear what prompted the soldier to open fire on his colleagues during the morning salute.
The spokesman for the Defense Ministry, Lt. Col. Belhassen Oueslati, speaking at a news briefing within hours of the shooting, described it as an isolated incident and said it was not part of an external attack on the barracks.
He said he had no information linking the shooter to any extremist organization.
The soldier had demonstrated behavioral problems, and he had previously been transferred to a nonsensitive unit and barred from carrying a weapon, Colonel Oueslati said.
“The soldier who did this had a disturbed behavior and family issues,” he said. “He attacked a fellow soldier, stabbed him and seized his weapon and then opened fire on the soldiers as they were saluting the flag.”
Tunisia relies on conscription, and the government conducts sporadic sweeps of neighborhoods to track down men trying to avoid their two years of military service.
The Tunisian Army and National Guard have been fighting an Islamist insurgency in the mountainous region along the country’s western border for four years, and they have suffered casualties from mines and ambushes. The United States is providing military equipment and training to the Tunisian security forces.
A colonel was among the casualties, Colonel Oueslati said.
The wounded were transferred from the Bouchoucha barracks, where the shooting took place, to the military hospital of Tunis. The death toll climbed steadily during the morning as several soldiers died of wounds. By midday, one of the 10 wounded remained in critical condition, the spokesman said.
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(via NY Times)