The ISIL (ISIS) armed group claimed responsibility on Monday for a knife attack in Tunisia that killed one National Guard officer and wounded another as security forces rounded up more suspects.
The attack on Sunday in a tourist district of the coastal city of Sousse saw a group of assailants ram a patrol of the National Guard with a vehicle before stabbing the officers.
They were chased by security forces before three attackers were shot dead in an ensuing gun battle, the Guard said, describing it as a “terrorist” act.
The armed group said its “fighters” carried out the attack in a brief statement by its propaganda arm Amaq on the Telegram messenger service.
“Photos show that one of the attackers was wearing a T-shirt with a specific inscription to Daesh [ISIL],” said Mokhtar Ben Nasr, former head of the National Counter-Terrorism Commission, stressing it was difficult to establish precise links between the group and its supporters.
Tunisia, since its 2011 revolution, has been hit by a string of attacks that have killed dozens of security personnel, civilians, and foreign tourists.
Sunday’s incident took place close to the site of the deadliest attack when 38 people – most of them British tourists – were killed in a 2015 beachside shooting rampage.
Tunisian authorities on Monday said they had arrested seven people over the attack.
The wounded officer was “in a stable condition”, the interior ministry spokesman said.
National Guard officer Sami Mrabet, a 38-year-old father of two, was buried on Monday in his hometown of Moknine south of Sousse, in the presence of more than 1,000 people, including several government officials.
Since Sunday, 43 people have been questioned and seven arrested, Guard spokesman Houcem Eddine Jebabli told private station Radio Shems.
They included “the wife of one of the assailants, who described her husband as a ‘martyr’ during the interrogation”, he said.
Two brothers of one of the attackers and a person suspected of recruiting them were also arrested, he added.
He said the attackers were twin brothers and a third man from the marginalised northwestern region of Siliana. He did not confirm or deny reports of a fourth assailant.
Jebabli said the twins had visited Facebook pages dealing with “explosive and armed attacks”, but had stayed under the radar of the authorities.
Tunisia’s President Kais Saied – on a visit on Sunday to the scene of the knife attack – said police were investigating whether it was planned “by individuals or an organisation”.
Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi promised to “eradicate terrorists as soon as possible”.
Mechichi, in a statement from his office, urged Tunisians “not to be afraid” of assailants, whom he described as “microbes”.
Sunday’s attack was the first since March when a suicide operation against security forces protecting the US embassy in Tunis killed a Tunisian police officer and left several others wounded.