Shooting rocks Africa’s oldest synagogue

At least two worshippers were killed on the island of Djerba

A security officer went on a shooting spree outside of the heavily guarded El Ghriba synagogue, killing a fellow guardsman and several worshippers during an annual Jewish pilgrimage on the Tunisian island of Djerba on Tuesday.

The Tunisian government has confirmed the deaths of a guard and two Jewish pilgrims as of early Wednesday morning. Nine others, including four pilgrims, have been wounded in the attack.

According to the authorities, the security officer first shot his colleague, before reloading his handgun and running toward the synagogue. After “firing wildly” at the people outside, he was fatally shot by Tunisian security guards.

Authorities are looking into the motives of the attacker, whose identity has not been released.

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Tunisia maintains a permanent security presence on the island, to protect the synagogue and the local Jewish community. Every year, pilgrims from Israel, France and elsewhere gather at the temple to celebrate the holiday of Lag Ba’Omer.

The 19th-century temple was built on the spot where an ancient synagogue once stood. According to local legend, it contained a door and a stone from the destroyed Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, carried by priests into exile.

Interior Minister Kamel Feki had visited the island on Saturday to review the security arrangements. The synagogue was targeted by Al-Qaeda terrorists in 2002, when 20 people, including 14 German tourists, died in a bombing.

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