2 gunmen trained in Libya before Tunisia museum attack

Islamic Extremism

A man holds a Tunisian flag as he demonstrate, two days after gunmen attacked a museum and killed scores of people, in Tunis, Tunisia, Friday, March 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

The two extremist gunmen who killed 21 people at a museum in Tunis trained in neighboring Libya before carrying out the deadly attack, a top Tunisian security official said.

Wednesday’s attack at the National Bardo Museum killed 21 people — 17 of them cruise ship tourists — before the two gunmen were killed in a firefight with security forces. The attack of such magnitude in Tunisia — the only country to emerge from the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings with a functioning democracy — raised concerns about the spread of extremism to the rest of North Africa.

Rafik Chelli, the Interior Ministry’s top security official, said the attackers had slipped out of Tunisia in December and received weapons training in Libya before returning home. He told the El Hiwar El Tounsi TV channel that authorities did not have further details about where or with which group they had trained.

The Islamic State group, based in Iraq and Syria, has claimed responsibility for the Bardo attack. Several well-armed groups in Libya, which borders Tunisia, have pledged their allegiance to Islamic State.

Authorities identified the gunmen as Yassine Laabidi and Hatem Khachnaoui. Laabidi had been flagged to intelligence but not for anything specific, Prime Minister Habib Essid said.

Report by The Associated Press.