Islamic State ‘claims’ responsibility for Tunisia attack as nation is left asking: what … – Telegraph.co.uk
Isil praised the two gunmen, who were shot dead by police, in an audio recording in Arabic, calling them “knights of the Islamic State”.
The dead terrorists, who were dressed in sweatshirts and trainers, were identified as Hatem al-Khashnawi and Yassin al-Abidi, both reportedly Tunisian.
Abidi had spent time in Iraq and Libya, according to Tunisian media reports.
He was known to the authorities but “not for anything very special”, said Habib Essid, the Tunisian prime minister. “Their affiliation is not clear at the moment,” he added.
Images from inside the Bardo Museum after the attack (Transterra Media)
The authorities said that four of the people arrested had direct links to the assault, while the other five had an indirect connection.
Hundreds of people gathered outside the locked gates of the Bardo Museum, renowned for its collection of Roman mosaics, to protest against the attack, voicing sympathy for the victims and concern for their country’s future.
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March 19, 2015
“We’ve never had a problem with terrorists. They are animals and when they are caught the government should strip them of their citizenship,” said Radhia Loveti, 49, a television make-up artist who has two children.
Nine of the dead tourists were from the MSC Splendida cruise ship, which had docked at the port of Tunis just hours before as part of a Mediterranean voyage.
“It was terrible. Every time I think about it I start crying,” a South African tourist, whose wife was critically injured after being shot, said.
Tunisians wave the national flag as they protest outside the National Bardo Museum in Tunis (Fadel Senna/AFP)
One French tourist said she had smeared herself with the blood of other victims in a desperate bid to convince the terrorists that she too was dead.
The Parisian woman, identified only as Maryline, told France Info that the terrorists “came from nowhere, shooting in all directions.” She crawled behind a pillar and sheltered there with other tourists. But the gunmen kept shooting and a person in front of her was hit in the head by a bullet.
“There was a great hole in his head. I felt his body slip onto mine.” Maryline was then shot in the knee.
“We were all crammed together on top of each other and there were lots of wounded. My friend had two people on top of him who were seriously injured and losing a lot of blood. So what we did, as we were scared the terrorists would come back, was to smear victims’ blood over our bodies.
“As we were still alive, we thought it would be best to play dead and smear blood all over ourselves in case they returned.”
Cristina Rubio, left, and Juan Carlos Sanchez leaving the Charles Nicole hospital in Tunis (EPA)
A terrified Spanish couple who were caught up in the attack spent all of Thursday night hiding in the museum and were only discovered on Friday.
Juan Carlos Sanchez and Cristina Rubio, who is four months pregnant, said they spent nearly 24 hours shut inside a tiny cleaners’ room, too afraid to come out or even use their mobile phones.
“We saw a man come running in chased by the shots of a terrorist,” Mr Sanchez told The Associated Press.
“We hid in a small room and that’s where we stayed. We spent all night there and we thought the terrorists were still outside.
“But it was simply the police who were searching for people. We thought they were terrorists out there and that’s why we didn’t venture out.”
The couple were on a honeymoon cruise after getting married earlier this month.
Despite the moderate views of most Tunisians, the country harbours a hard core of Islamist extremists who have emerged since its democratic revolution four years ago.
Tunisians are believed to make up the largest foreign contingent fighting for Isil with around 3,000 volunteers flocking to Syria, Iraq and, more recently, Libya.
Two large cruise ship companies, Costa Cruises and MSC Cruises, announced that they had cancelled stops in Tunis for the time being, and two German tour companies said they were halting trips to Tunis from nearby beach resorts.
Tourism accounts for around seven per cent of the North African nation’s GDP.
“The attackers took advantage of cruise ships being in Tunis. They knew we were expecting a large number of tourists,” said Ali Zouawi, a tour guide.