TUNIS, Tunisia — A Tunisian police officer who was stabbed in the neck by a suspected Islamic extremist has died of his wounds Thursday, less than 24 hours after the brazen attack that shook the north African country’s capital.
Commander Riadh Barrouta died of the injuries he sustained in Wednesday’s incident near the headquarters of Tunisia’s Parliament after emergency surgery failed, according to Tunisian Interior Ministry spokesman Yasser Mesbah.
The alleged attacker, a 25-year-old whom authorities said was known to them for radicalism, was quickly arrested after the incident by patrol officers stationed near the country’s leading museum, the Bardo, itself the location of one of Tunisia’s deadliest extremist attacks.
A second police officer was injured in the forehead during the knife attack, but the injuries aren’t considered to be life-threatening.
Prosecutor Sofiane Selliti identified the suspect as Zied Gharbi and said he holds a degree in computer science and is unemployed.
An Interior Ministry statement said that during his interrogation, Gharbi acknowledged espousing a radical ideological interpretation of Islam that condones violence and considers the death of police officers and soldiers a kind of “jihad.”
According to a security officer, Jamel Jarboui, Gharbi spoke to the investigators “with cold blood and did not seem to regret his act.”
“I’m ready to kill any police officer I meet,” Gharbi said during his first interrogation, according to Jarboui.
The stabbing has pushed the police unions to issue an ultimatum to the government and parliament to speed up a pending bill “to ensure the protection” of police against attacks of which they are regular targets.
Tunisia has struggled with Islamic extremism since protesters overthrew their longtime authoritarian leader in 2011 and established a fragile democracy. Deadly attacks by Islamic radicals killed dozens at the Bardo and at a beach resort in 2015.
Extremists linked to al-Qaida, and later to the Islamic State group, have targeted soldiers and police in other regions of Tunisia, notably in the Kasserine mountains near the Algerian border. But it is rare for them to target police around the capital.