Tunisia arrests 12 suspects linked with hotel assault

Tunisian government arrests 12 suspects in connection with shooting of 38 tourists at hotel in Sousse

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

The Tunisian government says that it has arrested 12 suspects allegedly connected with the shooting of 38 tourists at a hotel in Sousse.

Four of the detainees have been released while the other eight, seven men and women, are still being held for questioning.

Minister Kamel Jendoubi told reporters on Thursday that all the eight remaining detainees have been charged with direct involvement in the hotel attack.

Jendoubi said that the investigation "has allowed us to discover the network behind the operation in Sousse."

Tunisian police also released on Tuesday photos of two men identified as Rafkhe Talari and Bin Abdallah, wanted in connection with the recent attack by Saif Rezgui on a hotel in the resort town of Sousse.

The two men’s connection with Saif Rezgui in not clear, as the government did not provide further details.

Lazhar Akremi, minister for parliamentary relations, gave an announcement late on Wednesday saying that the perpetrators of the Bardo museum attack and Saif Rezgui were all trained in Libya.

"This is a group who were trained in Libya, and who had the same objective. Two attacked the Bardo and one attacked Sousse," he said.

Other members of the group may be planning imminent attacks, a senior Tunisian official told The Independent.

“Saif Rezgui - the perpetrator of the beach attack who was killed by police following his rampage - was in Libya at the same time as the two Tunisian gunmen who subsequently stormed the Tunis Bardo museum in March,” a spokesman for the Tunisian prime minister said.

The British victims of the attack on the Sousse hotel have all been formally identified except one, and the process of repatriating their bodies will be completed "over the coming days," Philip Hammond, Britain’s foreign secretary, said on Wednesday.

ISIS in Tunisia

In the Bardo museum assault in May 21 people were killed. ISIS claimed responsibility for that attack, as well as the latest attack in Sousse.

Due to the lack of order in eastern Libya, ISIS was able to expand its influence in the country uncontested on the ground. It has occupied parts of the central city of Sirte where forces from the Tripoli-allied Dawn Alliance’s Misrata-based 166th battalion continue to clash with the militants.

Dozens of militants have passed into Tunisia from Libya through Algeria, with ISIS-affiliated militants vowing earlier on social media to carry out more attacks in Tunisia.   

The Independent reported on Thursday that militants in Tunisia linked to ISIS have drawn up a list of targets in the country for the coming months. The list includes alcohol stores, bars, the country’s main airport, the tourist resort island of Djerba and security forces.

On May 27, a threat was posted on social media in Arabic against Tunisair, Tunisia’s national airline: “Attention to all Muslims: we inform you that you should not get onto Tunisair planes. You have been warned.”

Tunisian supporters of ISIS issued two “briefing” documents on February 27 and March 3, announcing a focus on attacks against “crusaders” - meaning Christian or Western and Jewish tourists - and the media.

One declared: “People of Tawhid [accepting one God], as has been said there are Christians coming to your home under the guise of tourism and there are many Jews in our country and there is the apostate army – and all whom we mention are legitimate targets for your men.”

More than 3,000 Tunisians have left their country to fight for ISIS in Syria, Iraq and Libya, and some have threatened to return and carry out attacks in their homeland.

Tunisians banned from travelling to Morocco

Following the hotel attack last Friday, the Tunisian government announced it would ban Tunisians under the age of 35 from travelling to Morocco.

The ban has not yet been lifted, and the measure is still in force.

Tunisia’s General Consul in Morocco, Hamdi Ben Othmane, according to the French-language website Yabildai said, “We want to prevent our youth from leaving the territory not only to protect them, but also to protect our borders. With what happened in Sousse, all possible measures have to be taken.

“Morocco is a country we respect, but the reality of the terrorist threat obligates us to take measures, which I repeat, are provisional,” he added when explaining the decision.


TRTWorld and agencies