At least one militant on a motorbike blew himself up outside the U.S. embassy in Tunisia on Friday, wounding police officers, witnesses said, in the country’s most serious attack in months.
The explosion took place near the embassy’s main gate, where a Reuters journalist saw a scorched, damaged motorbike and a damaged police vehicle lying amid debris as police gathered around and a helicopter whirled overhead.
State television and a private local radio station reported that two militants had carried out the attack and were killed, and that five police were injured, but there was no immediate official confirmation.
“We heard a very powerful explosion… we saw the remains of the terrorist lying on the ground after he went on the motorbike toward the police, some of whom were wounded,” said Amira, a shopkeeper in the area.
Sirens could be heard on the major highway linking the Lac district, where the embassy is located, with Tunis and suburbs in the north. The U.S. embassy in a tweet urged people to avoid the area.
Photographs of the blast site posted on social media showed debris strewn around the area of a security checkpoint that controls access to the embassy and damaged vehicles.
Last summer, Islamic State said it was behind militant blasts that struck the capital over the course of a week, including one near the French embassy that killed a policeman.
Tunisia’s critical tourism sector is highly vulnerable to militant incidents and was devastated after two major attacks in 2015, which killed scores of visitors at a beach resort and a popular museum.
Diplomats who have worked with Tunisia on its security capacity say it has grown more effective in preventing and responding to militant attacks in recent years.