epa05040093 Police and rescue forces at the scene of an explosion in Tunis, Tunisia, 24 November 2015. Eleven members of the Tunisian presidential security service were killed when an explosion hit their bus in the capital Tunis, Interior Ministry spokesman Walid al-Wuqaini told state television. Fourteen other people were injured, and the cause of the explosion was not yet known, the broadcaster said, citing an unnamed security official. EPA/MOHAMED MESSARA

An explosion in central Tunis has hit a bus carrying members of the presidential guard, killing at least 12 people.

The bus was travelling down the Mohamed V avenue during Tuesday’s rush hour when the blast occurred near the headquarters of the former single ruling party.

Beji Caid Sebsi, the Tunisian president, declared a state of emergency in the country in response to the attack. Tunis has been placed under a curfew until 5am. Mr Sebsi told the nation in a televised address that the country was at “war against terrorism” and vowed to vanquish the terrorists

Attacks by militants affiliated to Isis have killed scores in the North African country this year. In June 38 holidaymakers were shot dead when a gunman opened fire on the beach in the resort of Sousse. In March, attackers killed 21 tourists at the Bardo museum in Tunis.

Last week the Tunisian authorities said they had thwarted a major terrorist attack in Sousse and announced the arrest of 17 people and the seizure of weapons including Kalashnikovs, explosives and a bomb belt. The attack planned for this month would have targeted hotels, security facilities and politicians, they said.

Earlier this week the Tunisian interior ministry was reported to have informed Moncef Marzouki, the former president, that militants were planning to assassinate him.

Among Arab countries that witnessed uprisings against authoritarian rulers in 2011, Tunisia is the only one seen to have undergone a successful democratic transition.

Moderate Islamists and secular politicians were able to agree a compromise constitution, allowing the country to hold parliamentary and presidential elections last year. A coalition government including Islamists holds power. Four Tunisian civil society groups that mediated the agreement between the two sides salvaging the transition to democracy received this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

Tunisia locator map

But the country has struggled with a faltering economy further stalled by terrorist attacks.

Militant groups targeting the army operate in Chaambi mountains on the country’s western border with Algeria. In recent days they beheaded a youth who was out herding livestock after accusing him of spying on them.

Radicalised youths drawn to Isis have also been travelling for training with militants in Syria and neighbouring Libya, where the extremist group has established a foothold.

At least 3,000 Tunisians have travelled to Syria to fight with Isis, and in poor areas many youths say they know a neighbour or friend who has joined the terror group.

Get alerts on Tunisia when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window)

Follow the topics in this article