9 detained in connection with Tunisia museum attack

One of the gunmen who killed 23 people, including tourists, at a prominent museum was known to intelligence services.

By: Associated Press | Tunis | Published:March 19, 2015 9:56 pm

Tunisian attack, Tunisia,  National Bardo Museum, Juan Carlos Sanchez , Cristina Rubio,r Habib Essid,Yassine Laabidi,Hatem Khachnaoui

The attack on Wednesday at Tunisia’s National Bardo Museum left 23 dead, scores wounded and threatens both Tunisia’s fledgling democracy and its struggling tourism industry (Source: AP)

Tunisian security forces arrested nine people linked to the deadly attack on the National Bardo Museum that left 23 dead, scores wounded and threatened the country’s fledgling democracy and struggling tourism industry, the president’s office said on Thursday.

The statement said five of those arrested were directly connected to the attack by two gunmen while the other four were arrested in the center of the country and part of a cell supporting those involved.

One of the gunmen who killed 23 people, including tourists, at a prominent museum was known to intelligence services, but no formal links to a particular extremist group have been established, the prime minister said on Thursday.

The attack on Wednesday at Tunisia’s National Bardo Museum left 23 dead, scores wounded and threatens both Tunisia’s fledgling democracy and its struggling tourism industry. It was the worst attack at a tourist site in Tunisia in years, and a leading cruise line announced it is now canceling its Tunisian stops.

Razor wire ringed the museum today and security forces guarded major thoroughfares in Tunis, the capital, as authorities hunted for two or three more people believed to have been involved in the attack.

Yesterday’s two attackers burst from a vehicle wielding assault rifles and began gunning down tourists climbing out of buses. The attackers then charged inside to take hostages before being killed in a firefight with security forces.

A Spanish man and a pregnant Spanish woman who survived hid in the museum all night in fear and were retrieved safely this morning by security forces, Tunisia’s health minister said. Spain’s foreign minister said police searched all night for the pair, Juan Carlos Sanchez and Cristina Rubio.

Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid, in an interview with France’s RTL radio, said Tunisia was working with other countries to learn more about the attackers, identified as Yassine Laabidi and Hatem Khachnaoui. They were killed by security services in a raid.

He said Laabidi had been flagged to intelligence, although not for “anything special.”

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. Tunisia has faced scattered extremist violence, and a disproportionately large number of Tunisians have joined Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq.

The attack spells oceans of trouble for the tourism industry, which brings throngs of foreigners every year to Tunisia’s Mediterranean beaches, desert oases and ancient . Roman ruins – and which had just started to recover after years of slump. Two major cruise ships whose passengers had been among the victims left the port of Tunis early on Thursday.

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