Two of the militants who attacked a museum in Tunisia and killed 21 tourists received weapons training in Libya, but it remains unclear who was behind the Tunisia attack despite an Islamic State claim of responsibility.
Tunisia’s Prime Minister Habib Essid identified the two extremists as Hatem al-Khashnawi and Yassin al-Abidi but said they had no clear link to ISIS, according to Reuters.
“We have identified them, it is indeed these two terrorists. Their affiliation is not clear at the moment.”
Last December, the two left their home country of Tunisia and travelled to Libya for weapons training, said Tunisia Security Minister Rafik Chelly. The two were activated from sleeper cells, although it’s not clear which terrorist group they belonged to, according to CNN.
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the Tunisia attack Thursday, saying it targeted crusaders and apostates. The audio statement released online went on to say that bloodshed was just the start.
“We tell the apostates who sit on the chest of Muslim Tunisia: Wait for the glad tidings of what will harm you, o impure ones, for what you have seen today is the first drop of the rain.”
Despite their claims of responsibility, however, Tunisia officials have been unwilling to link ISIS directly to the attack, instead saying the group has heavily influenced other extremist groups across North Africa.
“I think (the Islamic State) is probably taking credit for something it may not have played a role in,” Geoff Porter, a security analyst for North Africa, told CBC News.
Tunisia has seen about 3,000 of its youth leave the country to become jihadists in Iraq and Syria.
Nine people involved in the Tunisia attack have been arrested, according to authorities that have said the army would be deployed to guard major cities. Five people were directly tied to the Tunisia attack while four others played supporting roles, according to CBC News.
The attack on Tunisia’s Brado museum, in a heavily-guarded parliament compound, took the lives of Belgian, British Columbian, French, Italian Japanese, and Spanish tourists, as well as three Tunisians. A Spanish couple was found alive hiding in the museum.
The attack threatens the tourist trade of Tunisia, which relies heavily on its beach resorts to prop up the economy.
“I want the Tunisian people to understand that we are in a merciless war against terrorism and that these savage minorities do not frighten us,” Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi told the Washington Post.