Amine Landoulsi / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

Gunmen storm Tunisian parliament compound, kill eight and take hostages

Interior Ministry spokesman says it is still verifying reports of suspects holding victims in nearby museum

Gunmen in Tunisia stormed the parliament compound Wednesday, killing at least eight people — including seven tourists — and reportedly taking other hostages at a nearby museum.

Security forces were said to have surrounded the building in which at least two suspects were holed up with an unknown number of captives, media and a government official said.

"A terrorist attack [targeted] the Bardo Museum," Interior Ministry spokesman Mohamed Ali Aroui told reporters, adding that the assault was carried out by "two or more terrorists armed with Kalashnikovs."

"There are eight victims" including "seven foreigners," he said, adding that about 100 tourists had been inside the museum at the time of the attack.

Exchanges of gunfire first rang out from the parliament building around midday, Tunisia's state news agency, TAP, reported.

The attackers are believed to have taken hostages into the museum, which is adjacent to the parliament building. Photos posted to Twitter by one of the alleged hostages show more than a dozen people in a room of the museum.

Aroui refused to confirm reports of a hostage taking inside the museum, but added, "There is information according to which there are still tourists" inside.

President Beji Caid Essebsi was to make a public statement to the nation, presidency spokesman Moez Sinaoui told AFP. 

In a post to its Facebook page, Tunisia's major Islamist political party, Ennahdha, said it was "horrified by this attack," adding that it "strongly condemns all acts of violence against Tunisia and its visitors."

Tunisia has witnessed periodic flare-ups of violence ever since the country's 2011 uprising toppled autocrat Zein El Abidin Bin Ali.

Several thousand Tunisians have also left the country to fight for radical groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant in Syria, Iraq and Libya, sparking fears that returning fighters could carry out attacks at home.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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