Tunisia president pledges safety for Jewish citizens after synagogue attack

European Union - African Union summit in Brussels

TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisian president Kais Saied pledged on Wednesday to guarantee the safety of Jewish citizens and their temples, after meeting the country's chief rabbi in the wake of a deadly attack at a synagogue.

Last Tuesday a National Guardsman killed two Jewish visitors and two policemen at the synagogue on Djerba island - Africa's oldest - before being shot dead. He had earlier killed a colleague at a naval installation.

Saied last week blamed the attack on "criminals" seeking to harm the tourism sector.

On Wednesday he met with Tunisia's chief rabbi, chief Christian archbishop and Muslim mufti, saying that receiving clerics‮ ‬sent a "historical message" of coexistence and tolerance.

"We will provide you security in your temples. Live in peace and security, and we will provide you with all security conditions," Saied said in a broadcast of part of the meeting.

The Jewish victims of the attack, which occurred during an annual festival, were two cousins, one French-Tunisian and the other Israeli-Tunisian.

"The president gave us guarantees that what happened recently would not happen again", Chief Rabbi Haïm Bittan said.

Saied did not describe the shooting as terrorism, a term he has sometimes used to label interventions by his political opponents since he extended his powers in 2021.

Mainly Muslim Tunisia is home to one of North Africa's largest Jewish communities with about 1,800 members.

The pilgrimage to the Djerba festival regularly draws hundreds of Jews from Europe and Israel and has operated under tight security since al Qaeda militants attacked the synagogue in 2002 with a truck bomb, killing 21 Western tourists.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; editing by John Stonestreet)