CAIRO - Two assailants on a motorcycle Friday attacked a Tunisian security forces checkpoint outside the U.S. Embassy in Tunis, blowing themselves up, killing one police officer and wounding four others plus a civilian. Police launched raids on the homes of the suspected bombers shortly after the attack.
Tunisian police appeared to chase possible accomplices of the suicide bombers through the streets of Tunis near the embassy, following the explosion shortly before noon local time. Amateur video showed a security forces vehicle and checkpoint in front of the mission damaged in the attack.
Debris and what appeared to be the body parts of the suicide bombers lined the street in front of the embassy compound. Bystanders crowded the area to see what was happening, despite efforts to close it off.
Arab media showed amateur video of Tunisian police storming the suspected homes or hideouts of the two suicide bombers and possible accomplices in a working-class neighborhood of the capital.
Interior Minister Hichem Mechichi told journalists Friday afternoon that the operation was part of an ongoing effort to capture terrorists and their accomplices. He said security forces surrounded the area and took measures to determine the identities of the assailants and their links.
Interior Ministry spokesman Colonel Walid Hakim told Tunisian TV that the terrorist operation was "a desperate and pointless attack and that the two suicide bombers blew themselves up for no obvious reason."
Egyptian political sociologist Said Sadek, who frequently spends time in Tunis, told VOA that there were a number of possible motives for the attack but that it was unlikely that the attackers really believed they could blow up the embassy, given that it is so heavily guarded.
"This operation [Friday] is aimed at destabilizing the Tunisian economy, making it difficult to revive and gives this image of instability to the whole world," Sadek said.
Sadek pointed out that several previous high-profile attacks in Tunis over the past several years — including one on the Bardo Museum, frequented by Western tourists, and the beach hotel in Sousse, which left a number of tourists dead or wounded — were also intended to sabotage the Tunisian economy.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.