Days after militants stormed the Bardo National Museum in Tunis, authorities have arrested more than 20 suspects in connection with the terrorist attack that killed 23 people, including 20 foreign tourists. Reuters reports the Tunisian authorities took nearly two dozen suspected militants into custody on Saturday, as the nation continues to mourn the lives lost in the largest terrorist attack involving foreigners in Tunisian in more than a decade.
Tunisia's Interior Ministry spokesperson Mohamed Ali Aroui told reporters on Saturday that 10 of the 20 suspected militants in custody may be directly involved in Wednesday's deadly assault on the national art and heritage museum. "There is a large-scale campaign against the extremists," Aroui told reporters.
Earlier this week, Tunisian authorities apprehended nine suspects in connection with Wednesday's shooting, which unfolded in a deadly hostage situation before security officers raided the Bardo and killed the two gunmen. On Thursday, Tunisian Prime Minister Prime Minister Habib Essid named the two gunmen on French radio, CNN reported. Tunisian authorities added that at least four of the suspects arrested that day were also directly involved in the attack.
Essid reportedly told French radio that one of the arrested suspects, Yassine Labidi, was "known to the security services." However, it's not known at this time why the Tunisian government was monitoring him. It's also unconfirmed at this time if the two gunmen had direct contacts with terrorist networks.
Also on Thursday, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria claimed responsibility for the attack on the Bardo National Museum in an audio statement. The ISIS militants said in their audio clip:
We tell the apostates who sit on the chest of Muslim Tunisia: Wait for the glad tidings of what will harm you, impure ones, for what you have seen today is the first drop of the rain, God willing. ... You will not enjoy security, nor be pleased with peace, while the Islamic State has men like these.
According to The New York Times, the ISIS members named the two gunmen as Zakaria al-Tunisi and Abu Anas al-Tunisi, their alleged Islamic aliases. When asked about the veracity of the ISIS militants' claim, representatives for the U.S. Department of State told reporters on Friday they still can't confirm the group's alleged involvement.
According to Reuters, hundreds of mourners attended a memorial Mass at the Cathedral of Tunis on Saturday. Most of the victims killed in Wednesday's terrorist attack were foreign nationals, some of whom arrived on a cruise ship that arrived just hours before the shooting occurred. Many of the victims hailed from Italy, Poland and Great Britain.
Images: Getty Images (2)