German minister: Tunisia synagogue blast – “attack” not accident; Death toll rises to 16
Three days after a truck crashed and exploded at the Ghriba synagogue on the resort island of Djerba the death toll rose to 16 people, mainly German tourists. Tunisian authorities called the blast a "tragic accident" and have opened an investigation.
However, German Interior Minister Otto Schily said on German television Saturday there were "growing signs" that the explosion was an attack. Giving no further details, he called the explosion a terrible crime and offered condolences.
According to AP, the toll climbed to 13 Saturday with the death of two injured Germans and a French man. A total of eight Germans were killed. Ten injured Germans were evacuated to Hamburg by a German Army hospital plane on Saturday.
Three Tunisians, the driver of the truck and two workers, as well as a French-Tunisian tour guide also were killed.
Tunisian Tourism Minister Mondher Zenaidi visited the synagogue on Saturday, the highest ranking government official to do so. He reiterated the official explanation of a "tragic accident" and expressed condolences.
"Until the investigation is finished, there should be no speculation," he said after asked whether the crash might have been an attack. "Tunisia is a country of tolerance, respect for differences and respect for religions."
Regional Governor Mohamed Ben Salem said the tanker was stopped by synagogue guards as it approached the grounds and was ordered to turn around, but hit the outer wall and exploded.
Rene Trabelsi, who lives in Paris but returned home following the blast, said the synagogue had never received any threats. (Albawaba.com)