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Tunisian officer stabbed to death in tourist centre

Three assailants killed in a firefight after the attack on National Guard officers in Sousse
Tunisia has faced a myriad of problems, including rising unemployment and political deadlock, since 2011 (AFP)

A Tunisian National Guard officer was killed and another wounded during a knife attack before the three attackers were shot dead in a firefight, Tunisia's security forces said.

The attack, labelled a terrorist act by local authorities, took place in the tourist centre of Sousse, where 38 people, mainly British citizens, were killed in a 2015 beachside shooting. 

"A patrol of two National Guard officers was attacked with a knife in the centre of Sousse," 140km south of the capital Tunis, said National Guard spokesman Houcem Eddine Jebabli.

'One [officer] died as a martyr and the other was wounded and is hospitalised … this was a terrorist attack'

- National Guard spokesman Houcem Eddine Jebabli

"One died as a martyr and the other was wounded and is hospitalised," he said, adding that "this was a terrorist attack".

The attackers rammed the officers from the national gendarmerie with a vehicle, Tunisia's interior ministry said in a statement. 

After the knife attack, security forces said they pursued the attackers, who had taken the officers' guns and vehicle and had driven through the Akouda district, said Jebabli. 

"In a firefight three terrorists were killed," he said, adding that security forces "managed to recover" the car and the two pistols the assailants had stolen.

The British ambassador to Tunisia, Louise de Sousa, tweeted that she was "appalled to hear of the attack on a National Guard patrol in Sousse this morning. 

"My sincere condolences to the family of the murdered officer and I wish a swift recovery to the injured."

Since the country's 2011 uprising, Tunisia has endured a series of attacks on its security officers and tourist areas. 

Despite its successful democratic transition, the north African country has been mired in political deadlock as its economy continues to stagnate and unemployment levels continue to rise. 

Last week, Tunisia's parliament approved a new technocratic government led by Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi, which faces the task of tackling deep social and economic woes.

The 46-year-old premier pledged to revitalise the economy, including the crucial tourism sector, which had rebounded after attacks but has been hit hard this year by the coronavirus pandemic.