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Five Tunisia terror victims were passengers on Costa cruise ship

Another eight guests aboard the Costa Fascinosa suffered injuries in attack, having disembarked from vessel to visit museum

After surviving the trauma of the Costa Concordia disaster, Antonello Tonno took a break for a couple of years from his job as cruise-ship pianist. This week, he was back at work – but, once again, the ship he was on was struck by tragedy. Five passengers on board the Costa Fascinosa, another vessel from the same company, were killed and another eight injured in the museum terror attack in Tunis.

“It is my tragic fate: to be called by journalists to recount the dramas I witness,” he told Il Messaggero newspaper. Thirty-two people died in the Costa Concordia disaster off the Tuscan island of Giglio in January 2012.

Tonno had not ventured out to the Bardo museum on the morning that the cruise docked in Tunis, as dozens of guests had. On Thursday, he described seeing the anguished, distressed faces as many – but not all – passengers returned after what was meant to be a tour of the city’s most prized attraction.

Instead, the trip to the Bardo ended in horror. On Thursday, Costa Crociere said two passengers remained unaccounted for. It did not identify them by name.

After the attack, the tensions on board the Fascinosa were evident, said Tonno. Passengers were relieved when the ship’s captain, Ignazio Giardina, announced that the ship was secure and under protection. A second announcement confirmed that they would be leaving Tunis the next day.

The stop was a relatively new addition for Costa, which decided to start making calls in the Tunisian capital in late 2014. The company announced on Thursday that it was halting all other calls in Tunis for the remainder of this year. Its website still describes the tour to the Bardo, however, urging passengers not to miss the oldest museum inAfrica and its perfectly preserved Roman mosaics.

“The security of our guests and crew is Costa Crociere’s priority and a necessary condition for calm and pleasant vacations,” the company said.

The Fascinosa’s passengers had arrived in Tunis at around 9am on Wednesday, the same day as other cruise ships also arrive in the port, keeping Tunisian tour guides busy.

One guide, Wafel Bouzi, told Il Messaggero that he had just finished a tour with a group of Spanish tourists when he noticed man in his twenties holding a Kalashnikov in the middle of the crowded museum car park where busloads of tourists usually arrive from the port. The man was standing in front of a bus of cruise passengers and began to mow them down.

Another cruise company, MSC, said that, based on information available on Thursday, 12 passengers on its cruise had been killed – two Colombian, three French, three Japanese, two Spanish, one British, and one Belgian – and 13 others injured, of which two were in serious condition.

Two other guests who had been missing were found safe in the Bardo museum. The Spaniards, Cristina Rubio Benlloch and Juan Carlos Sanchez Oltra, were traveling on board the MSC Splendida and had spent the night hiding in the museum. Benlloch, who is pregnant, was reportedly in a good condition, the company said.

The Fascinosa departed from Tunis at around two in the morning and is due to arrive at its next destination, Mallorca, on Friday.