Tunisian government blames Ansar al Sharia for suicide attacks

Last week, two suicide bombers planned to attack targets inside Tunisia. Only one terrorist managed to detonate his bomb on a beach in Sousse, taking no one else with him. The Tunisian government announced shortly afterwards that five Ansar al Sharia Tunisia members were arrested in connection with the two failed attacks.

Agence France Presse (AFP) reported on the arrests:

Tunisian special forces later arrested “five terrorists with direct links to the assailants” in Sousse and Monastir, the interior ministry said.

Ministry spokesman Mohamed Ali Laroui said those behind the attacks belonged to Ansar al-Sharia, Tunisia’s main Salafist movement, which the authorities have designated a “terrorist organisation” with ties to Al-Qaeda.

NBC News interviewed an American tourist, referred to only as Juliette, who was swimming with her family on the beach in Sousse when the suicide bomber killed himself:

“We were no more than 50 meters away from the explosion,” [Juliette] said. “But we’re feeling pretty calm. When we learned that the bomber exploded a kamikaze vest, we were just so glad to be alive and feel so lucky.”

NBC News added the following:

No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the moderate Islamist-led government has been combating Ansar al-Sharia extremists it says are tied to al Qaeda’s North Africa affiliate.

“The two suicide bombers are radical Islamist jihadists. They are Tunisians, but they had been in a neighboring country,” interior ministry spokesman Mohammed Ali [Laroui] told Reuters, without specifying the country.

The country in question is likely Libya. As The Long War Journal noted last week, a number of unconfirmed press reports coming out of Tunisia say that Ansar al Sharia Tunisia’s leader, Seifallah Ben Hassine (a.k.a. Abu Iyad al Tunisi), is conspiring with al Qaeda terrorists in Libya.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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