Security Threats Force Bardo Museum to Postpone Reopening

Public gathering in Tunis following the Bardo Museum attack Photo via: La Feuille de Chou

The Bardo Musem in Tunis won’t reopen to the public today, March 24, as originally planned.

“We were very surprised [by the decision],” the museum’s communication officer Hanene Srarfi told Le Monde, “but, according to the Interior Ministry, security reasons prevent us from hosting a large number of visitors.”

An official re-opening ceremony will nonetheless go ahead this afternoon, but only accredited members of the press will be allowed to attend.

Twenty-three people, including twenty tourists, died at the Bardo Museum on March 18 during an attack claimed by ISIS. (see Gunmen Kill 23 Including Tourists in Attack at Tunisia’s National Bardo Museum, Nine Arrests as ISIS Claims Credit for Bardo Museum Attack in Tunisia). The media reported that up to 50 people were injured during the attack.

Prime Minister Habib Essid conceded failures in the security system, and on Monday, he dismissed Tunis’s chief of police, and the museum’s head of security.

According to Le Monde, four more police and intelligence staff have been fired in connection to the deadly attack. They have been promptly replaced.

The cancellation of today’s reopening will be a blow for the museum staff, which saw it as a sign of hope and resilience.

“[Reopening so soon after the attack] is a challenge, but it’s also a message,” curator Moncef Ben Moussa said recently. “What happened touches us all, but we want to show that [the perpetrators] didn’t achieve their objectives.”

There’s one small consolation after the bloodbath. The museum itself—which hosts the world’s largest collection of mosaics and is housed in a 19th-century palace—suffered little damage.

Talking to Le Figaro, Ben Moussa mentioned “small things, all of them fixable.” The artefacts themselves appear to be intact.

This suggests that, unlike in the ISIS-led attack on Assyrian sculptures in Mossul, the targets were the tourists rather than the collections (ISIS Militants Storm Museum and Smash 3,000 Year Old Assyrian Sculptures on Video).

Ben Moussa also said that security will be reinforced on site. “This doesn’t mean that the security measures were lacking, but there might have been a flaw that will have to be addressed.”

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