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TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) The body of a suspected suicide bomber was found at the scene of an attack on Tunisia’s presidential guard, and the Islamic State group claimed responsibility Wednesday for the attack that left 13 people dead.
Tuesday’s attack on a bus carrying Tunisia’s presidential guards involved about 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of military explosives, the Interior Ministry said.
The blast rattled the country after a particularly violent year. If the Islamic State group was indeed behind it, it is the latest of several major attacks in Europe and the Mideast seeding terror well beyond its base in Syria and Iraq. Tunisian authorities discovered the body of a 13th person in the bus, believed to be the “terrorist who caused the explosion,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement Wednesday. Ministry spokesman Walid Louguini told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the 13th body couldn’t be identified by fingerprints because no fingers were found. The ministry said a DNA analysis of the body is underway.
The government declared the blast a terrorist attack and imposed a 30-day nationwide state of emergency, with troops fanned out across the capital. The Islamic State group issued a statement posted online Wednesday saying a militant it identified as Abu Abdullah al-Tunisi carried out the attack after infiltrating the bus and killing around 20 “apostates.”
Earlier this year, the country suffered two major attacks by Islamic extremists that targeted tourist sites. The blast on a tree-lined avenue in the heart of Tunis is a new blow to a country that is seen as a democratic model for the region. It came days after authorities visibly increased security in the capital and deployed security forces in unusually high numbers.
The U.S. State Department denounced the attack and the U.N. Security Council pledged support for Tunisia’s young democracy.
Iyad Madani, secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation the world’s largest bloc of Muslim-majority countries strongly condemned the attack. In a statement Wednesday, Madani expressed his solidarity with Tunisia and said such acts of terrorism are seeking to alter the country’s “moderation and tolerance-driven model of society.”
Zeina Karam in Beirut and Aya Batrawy contributed to this report.
TUNIS, Tunisia Tunisia s president declared a 30-day state of emergency across the country and imposed an overnight curfew for the capital Tuesday after an explosion struck a bus carrying members of the presidential guard, killing at least 12 people and wounding 20 others.
The government described it as a terrorist attack. The blast on a tree-lined avenue in the heart of Tunis is a new blow to a country that is seen as a model for the region but has struggled against Islamic extremist violence. Radical gunmen staged two attacks earlier this year that killed 60 people, devastated the tourism industry and rattled this young democracy.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack against the presidential guard, an elite security force that protects only the president. President Beji Caid Essebsi, who wasn t in the bus at the time, declared the state of emergency and curfew on the Tunis region. He convened an emergency meeting of his security council for Wednesday morning. Speaking on national television, he said Tunisia is at war against terrorism and urged international cooperation against extremists who have killed hundreds around Europe and the Mideast in recent weeks, from Paris to Beirut to a Russian plane shot down over Egypt.
I want to reassure the Tunisian people that we will vanquish terrorism, he said.
Police fanned out throughout central Tunis after Tuesday s explosion, and ambulances rushed to the scene, evacuating wounded and dead. Top government ministers visited the scene of the attack after it was cordoned off by police. Interior Ministry spokesman Walid Louguini told The Associated Press that at least 12 were killed and 20 wounded in the attack. Witness Bassem Trifi, a human rights lawyer, said the explosion hit the driver s side of the bus, describing a catastrophic scene.
I saw at least five corpses on the ground, he told the AP. This was not an ordinary explosion.
The attack came days after authorities visibly increased the security level in the capital and deployed security forces in unusually high numbers. Earlier this month, Tunisian authorities announced the dismantling of a cell that it said had planned attacks at police stations and hotels in the seaside city of Sousse, about 150 kilometers (95 miles) southeast of Tunis. Sousse was one of the targets of attacks earlier this year. State Department spokesman Mark Toner, speaking in Washington, said the U.S. government was still seeking details on what happened in Tunis, but added, We strongly condemn the attack.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, visiting Tunis earlier this month, pledged expanded economic and security support for Tunisia, whose popular uprising unleashed the democracy movements across the region in 2011 that became known as the Arab Spring. Kerry said the U.S. and Tunisia would soon begin negotiations on a major loan guarantee and were discussing expanded military cooperation, including intelligence sharing and the possible use of drones to collect information about potential threats. A U.S. military team was expected in Tunisia around late November to begin those talks. Tunisia is the only Arab Spring country to have solidified a new democracy, but it is facing serious economic and security challenges.
Tunisia s tourism industry has been hit especially hard this year. Shootings at a luxury beach hotel in Sousse last June killed 38 people, mostly tourists, while in March, an attack by Islamist extremists at Tunisia s famed Bardo museum near the capital killed 22 people. The attack came two weeks before a group of Tunisians heads to Oslo to receive this year s Nobel Peace Prize, awarded to the country s National Dialogue Quartet for negotiations that rescued the country s fledgling democracy from a constitutional crisis. Tunisia s influential Islamist party also denounced the explosion, and urged Tunisians to unite behind the security forces as they hunt for the perpetrators.
Tunisia is targeted because it is a democracy and represents a model of moderate Islam, it said.
The U.N. Security Council stressed that no terrorist attack can reverse the path of Tunisia towards democracy and its efforts towards economic recovery and development.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the United Nations will continue to stand with the people of Tunisia as they confront the scourge of terrorism and continue to consolidate and strengthen their democracy.
By ANDREW MARTINS
JACKSON Four officers in the Jackson Police Department have been promoted. The officers were recognized in front of family members and friends during a recent meeting of the Township Council. Patrol officers Fred Meabe and Michael Friedman were promoted to the rank of sergeant. Sgt. John Convery and Sgt. John Giovanetti were promoted to the rank of lieutenant.
Without these men and women (in the police department), we are in a lot of trouble, Mayor Michael Reina said. I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart.
During the promotion ceremony, Police Chief Matthew Kunz recognized each officer. Kunz said Meabe grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., moved to Jackson in 1986 and graduated from Jackson Memorial High School. Meabe began his law enforcement career in 1996. He worked as a corrections officer at the Albert C. Wagner Youth Correctional Facility in Bordentown. By 2001, he was hired to as a full-time officer in Jackson. During his time in Jackson, Meabe has been assigned to the Ocean County Prosecutor s Office Special Operations Unit and has directed undercover narcotics investigations.
Friedman was born in Germany to a military family and later moved to Texas. He attended the Florida Institute of Technology before deciding to pursue a career in law enforcement. Friedman moved to New Jersey and in March 2000 he was hired as a corrections officer at the Albert C. Wagner Youth Correctional Facility in Bordentown. He joined the Jackson Police Department in 2006. Kunz said Friedman is an Ocean County certified drug recognition expert and an instructor for incident response in terrorist attacks.
Convery is a Jackson native and a 1985 graduate of Jackson Memorial High School. He graduated from Trenton State College in 1989 with a bachelor s degree in criminal justice. Kunz said Convery worked as an Ocean County detention officer from 1987-89 and as a probation officer from 1989-97. Convery was hired by the Jackson Police Department in 1997. He has served in a number of capacities and coordinates Jackson s annual National Night Out event.
Over the years, Convery has trained almost 300 officers in Monmouth, Ocean and Burlington counties in how to investigate and prosecute incidents of elder abuse. Giovanetti is a native of Phillipsburg who graduated from Phillipsburg High School in 1991. He attended Ocean County College and Trenton State College, graduating with a degree in criminal justice. Kunz said Giovanetti worked as a security officer at Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, from 1993-98 and then in the security department at Johnson & Johnson, New Brunswick. He was hired in Jackson in 1999.
Giovanetti has served on the police department s special response team and with the Ocean County Regional SWAT Team and the Senior Burglary Task Force. Following the promotion ceremony for the four men, Councilman Kenneth Bressi said, When the public gets to hear the depth of the officers resumes, it shows just how deep and good our police department is. Police lieutenants in Jackson are paid between $140,236 and $147,779 and sergeants are paid between $125,210 and $131,945, according to the 2015 salary ordinance.