Attack near Tunisia synagogue kills four

FILE PHOTO: Jewish worshippers arrive at the Ghriba synagogue, during an annual pilgrimage in Djerba

TUNIS (Reuters) -An attack near a synagogue in Tunisia killed two security officers and two visitors on Tuesday the government said amid an annual pilgrimage to the island of Djerba that draws hundreds of Jews from Europe and Israel.

The attack was staged by a guard at a naval installation on Djerba who used his weapon to shoot a colleague and seize his ammunition before heading towards the synagogue, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

The attacker fired indiscriminately at security units located near the synagogue, killing the two visitors and another security officer, as well as injuring five security officers and four visitors. Security forces then shot him dead, the Interior Ministry said.

The Tunisian foreign ministry said one of the visitors killed was French and one was Tunisian.

Video posted on social media that Reuters was not immediately able to verify showed frightened looking people standing in a courtyard as a gunshot rang out. Residents of the island said they had heard an exchange of fire.

Authorities did not identify a motive for the attack but Islamist militants have previously targeted the pilgrimage in Djerba and have staged other attacks in the country.

Tunisia's last significant attack was a blast targeting police outside the U.S. embassy in 2020 that killed one officer. Two suicide blasts targeted police outside the French embassy in 2019, also killing one officer.

Islamist militants killed scores of tourists in two separate attacks at a beach resort and a Tunis museum in 2015.

The annual pilgrimage to Africa's oldest synagogue regularly draws hundreds of Jews from Europe and Israel to Djerba, a holiday destination off the coast of southern Tunisia, 500 km (300 miles) from the capital Tunis.

The pilgrimage has had tight security since al Qaeda militants attacked the synagogue in 2002 with a truck bomb, killing 21 Western tourists.

Mainly Muslim Tunisia is home to one of North Africa's largest Jewish communities. Though they now number fewer than 1,800 people, Jews have lived in Tunisia since Roman times.

U.S. ambassador Joey Hood visited the synagogue on Monday along with the U.S. envoy for monitoring and combating antisemitism, Deborah Lipstadt, according to U.S. embassy post on Twitter.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara, writing by Angus McDowall, editing by Chris Reese, Rosalba O'Brien and Lincoln Feast)