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Tunisian president falls 'seriously ill'

June 28, 2019

Tunisia's aging president, Beji Caid Essebsi, has been rushed to hospital after falling "seriously ill." News of the 92-year-old's deteriorating health came as two suicide bombings struck Tunis.

Beji Caid Essebsi
Image: Getty Images/C. Somodevilla

Tunisia's presidency reported late Thursday that 92-year-old leader Beji Caid Essebsi was in a "stable condition" after being taken to a military hospital in the capital, Tunis.

Essebsi, Tunisia's first democratically elected president, came to power in 2014 in the aftermath of the Arab Spring uprising that ousted dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

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A statement from the presidency said Essebsi was "taken seriously ill" and needed medical attention. Hours later, the president's son wrote on his Facebook page that there had been "an improvement" in his father's condition.

In recent public appearances Essebsi has seemed increasingly frail. He was also hospitalized briefly last week.

The president has previously stated that he will not seek another term in elections set for November, saying a younger candidate should take over.

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Police tape cordons off the site of a bombing in Tunis
Tunisia has been hit by repeated terror attacks since the Arab Spring protestsImage: Reuters/Z. Souissi

Twín terror attacks

Tunisia is widely seen as the sole success story of the Arab Spring. But the North African country's transition to democracy has been marked by a slowing economy, social unrest and a string of Islamic extremist attacks. 

Before the president's hospitalization was announced on Thursday, twin suicide blasts targeting security forces struck Tunis.

The first bomber set off their explosives near a police patrol stationed in a bustling commercial district in the center. One of the officers was killed, while another policeman and three civilians were injured.

Four officers were wounded in the second strike, which hit an entrance to the base of the anti-terrorism brigade on the outskirts of the city. 

The "Islamic State" (IS) terror group claimed responsibility for the attacks via its Amaq news agency. The claim has not been verified.

IS was behind two of Tunisia's deadliest extremist attacks — one at Tunis' Bardo Museum in which gunmen killed 22 people in March 2015, and another three months later that killed 38 people in the coastal city of Sousse.

nm/rc (AFP, AP, dpa)

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