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Gunmen in Tunis attack trained in Libya

By Agencies in Tunis | China Daily | Updated: 2015-03-21 08:03

Islamic State group claims responsibility for raid on foreign visitors at museum that left 21 dead

The two gunmen who killed 21 people in an attack on foreign tourists at a Tunis museum trained at a militant camp in Libya, Tunisia's secretary of state for security said.

"They left the country illegally last December for Libya and they were able to train with weapons there," Rafik Chelly told the AlHiwar Ettounsi television channel.

The two gunmen were named by the authorities as Yassine Abidi and Hatem Khachnaoui.

Chelly said that Abidi had been arrested before making his way to Libya, without providing details.

Wednesday's attack on the National Bardo Museum in central Tunis was the country's worst since the 2011 uprising that toppled strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

The security chief said the two gunmen had been "from sleeper cells" present in several areas.

"We know they can launch operations but we must piece together clues in order to conduct an arrest," Chelly said late on Thursday.

He named locations of several suspected training camps for Tunisians in Libya, including the second city Benghazi and the coastal town of Derna, which has become a stronghold for jihadists.

Authorities say as many as 3,000 Tunisians have gone to Iraq, Syria and Libya to fight in jihadist ranks, raising fears of battle-hardened militants returning home to plot attacks.

The Islamic State group based in Iraq and Syria has claimed responsibility. Several well-armed groups in Libya have pledged their allegiance to Islamic State.

In an audio message posted online on Thursday, IS said "two knights from the Islamic State ... heavily armed with automatic weapons and grenades, targeted the Bardo Museum" in the capital.

The group, which has hundreds of Tunisians among its ranks, threatened more attacks, saying: "What you have seen is only the start."

Police have arrested five people described as directly linked to the two gunmen as well as four others in central Tunisia said to be supporters of their cell.

Restoring image

On Thursday, Tunisians stepped around trails of blood and broken glass outside the museum to rally in solidarity with the 21 victims and with the country's fledgling democracy.

Marchers carried signs saying, "No to terrorism", and "Tunisia is bloodied but still standing."

Tunisia has been actively restoring its national image after the attack on the National Bardo Museum, attempting to revive its crucial tourism industry, local media said on Friday.

While Tunisian authorities were investigating the identities of the attackers, local citizens spontaneously began mending the spotted image of the historic North African country, according to local media Tunis Times.

AFP - AP - Xinhua

 Gunmen in Tunis attack trained in Libya

The mother (second from right) of Tunisian policeman Aymen Morjane mourns her son's death as comrades pay a final tribute in the barracks at Bouchoucha in Tunis on Thursday, a day after he was killed in an attack at Tunisia's National Bardo Museum. The Islamic State jihadist group claimed responsibility for the attack that killed 21 people. Sofienne Hamdaoui / Agence France-Presse

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