The victims from among the worshipers were identified as Adiel Hadad, a 30-year-old dual citizen of Tunisia and Israel living in Netivot, Israel, and his 42-year-old cousin, Benjamin Haddad, a French-Jewish businessman living in France, the chairwoman of the World Federation of Tunisian Jewry in Israel, Dr. Miryam Gez-Avigal, told The Times of Israel.
A guard was also killed in the brazen attack on the heavily secured El Ghriba synagogue, and nine others, including four civilians, were injured, the Tunisian Interior Ministry said early May 10th
According to the ministry, the officer, affiliated with the National Guard naval center in the town of Aghir on Djerba, first turned his service weapon on a colleague, then grabbed more ammunition and made his way to the synagogue.
The annual pilgrimage to Africa’s oldest synagogue regularly draws hundreds of Jews from Europe and Israel to Djerba, a holiday destination off the coast of southern Tunisia, 500 km from the capital Tunis.
The pilgrimage has had tight security since al-Qaida militants attacked the synagogue in 2002 with a truck bomb, killing 21 western tourists.
Mainly Muslim Tunisia is home to one of north Africa’s largest Jewish communities. Though they now number fewer than 1,800 people, Jews have lived in Tunisia since Roman times.
The naval officer began shooting wildly at security units stationed at the synagogue, who responded with gunfire, killing him. The synagogue was locked down and those inside were kept secure, the ministry said.
Authorities are probing what led to the attack.
“Investigations are continuing in order to shed light on the motives for this cowardly aggression,” the ministry said, refraining from referring to the shooting as a terrorist attack.