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Tunisia museum attackers ‘trained in Libya’

Screen grab from an Islamic State group propaganda video allegedly shows a militant training ground
Screen grab from an Islamic State group propaganda video allegedly shows a militant training ground AFP

The two gunmen who killed 21 people in an attack targeting foreign tourists at the Bardo Museum in Tunis received weapons training in Libya, Tunisia's security chief said Wednesday.

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Secretary of State for Security Rafik Chelly said the attackers “left the country illegally last December for Libya and they were able to train with weapons there" before returning to Tunisia.

“We do not have detailed information, but there are training camps for Tunisians (in Libya) in Sabratha, in Benghazi and in Derna, so they could have trained in one of those camps,” Chelly told the private AlHiwar Ettounsi television channel.

He said that one of the two assailants had been detained temporarily before his departure for Libya, but declined to give additional information.

The two men were known members “of so-called sleeper cells, made up of individuals in the city we know are takfiris,” Chelly said in reference to Muslim fundamentalists who take a strict interpretation of the Prophet Mohammed’s statements and actions.

He said officials were aware the terrorist cells were capable of carrying out attacks, but often lacked sufficient evidence to make arrests.

Wednesday’s attack targeted one of Tunisia’s most prestigious museums, popular among Western tourists for its collection of archaeological treasures. Twenty of the 21 persons killed in the attack and were foreigners. They included citizens of France, Spain, Italy, Poland, Japan, Australia and Colombia.

The two gunmen, named by Tunisian authorities as Yassine Abidi and Hatem Khachnaoui, were killed by security forces who stormed the museum around two hours after a hostage situation began. One police officer died in the operation, government sources revealed.

The attack was claimed by the Islamic State group, which controls vast regions in Syria and Iraq. Around 500 Tunisians have travelled to Iraq, Syria or neighbouring Iraq to fight alongside jihadist militants, according to police estimates.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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