On this day: The El Ghriba synagogue bombing

April 11 2002: Attack in Tunisia


Just weeks before the annual pilgrimage to Lag B'Omer – a major celebration time - Africa's oldest synagogue was targeted in an al-Qaeda plot.

It was a Thursday afternoon when a suicide bomber drove a truck loaded with explosives into the outer wall of the historic Tunisian El Ghriba synagogue, killing 21 and injuring 30 more.

The fatalities included 14 German tourists, five Tunisians, and two French nationals. One of the victims was an 18 month old boy.

The truck, filled with gas and rigged with explosives, detonated as it crashed into the front wall of the ancient building on the island of Djerba, a site of Jewish pilgrimage since it was founded in 586 BC.

For Sephardic Jews the site is second only to the Western Wall in popularity. It houses a unique collection of Torahs including one of the oldest scrolls known to exist.

After some investigation it became clear that the truck explosion was a planned attack by al-Qaeda suicide bomber Niser bin Muhammad Nasar Nawa.

A German convert to Islam, Christian Ganczarski, was sentenced to 18 years for planning the attack. Walid Nawar, the brother of suicide bomber Nasar Nawa, and their uncle Belgacem Nawar were jailed for 12 and 20 years respectively for their involvement in the plot.

French prosecutors believed the attack was conceived by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed - the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks on the US – but due to his imprisonment at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre he was not tried.

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    Last updated: 10:31am, April 11 2011