The terrorist attack at Tunis’ Bardo museum (one of the world’s great museums) which killed 20 foreign tourists, is not just a blow to Tunisia’s political stability, but also a strike against its economy.Though the government has been downplaying the role of organized Islamist radicals in the attack, a new group calling itself the Uqba ibn Nafi Battalion posted a video online which seemed to betray a detailed knowledge of how the attack took place. Praising the strike (while not yet taking full responsibility for it), the group went on to outline a strategy aimed specifically at foreigners:
“You should hunt them everywhere, especially the French, the Americans, the British and the Israelis,” the message said. “Lure them in roads, lodges, dance clubs and bars. Slaughter them on the beaches, drown them in the sea, poison them on the roads by giving them something poisoned to eat, break their skull with a stone, or suffocate them with a pillow in the room.”
The tourist trade is the key to Tunisia’s economic revival. Unfortunately the eurozone’s economic problems have already depressed Tunisia’s natural market of European tourists. This attack at one of the country’s most renowned and, presumably, best guarded sites will make many people think again about their holiday plans. Foreign investors, too, may turn a bit skittish.All that is bad news for Tunisia’s struggling government. Tunisia remains the only country where the vaunted Arab Spring seems to have made things better and not worse. Progress there was already fragile, so we have to hope that the country holds together in the aftermath of this barbarity. Hope, unfortunately, is in short supply in today’s Middle East. Tunisia is an opportunity the world can’t afford to lose.UPDATE: Reports are emerging that ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attacks.