ISIS claims museum attack

In an audio statement posted online Thursday, ISIS claimed responsibility for the deadly terrorist attack at the Bardo Museum in Tunis, Tunisia.

The statement says Abu Zakariya al-Tunisi and Abu Anas al-Tunisi were two people who carried out the attack, which it warns is “just the start.”

CNN cannot independently verify the authenticity of the audio statement.

A U.S. official told CNN that there is no reason to doubt the claim’s authenticity. That said, American officials are trying to verify the platform that the statement went out on, including to the extent it is tied to the group calling itself the Islamic State.

The current U.S. thinking is that the attack may have been carried out by local “franchise” adherents to ISIS, rather than centrally directed by the Islamist extremist group’s leadership now thought to be in Syria.

[Previous story, posted at 11:42 a.m. ET]

Tunisian authorities have arrested nine people in connection with a bloody terrorist attack at a museum in the heart of that country’s capital, a mass shooting that has shaken the birthplace of the Arab Spring and stirred questions about militants in the country.

Four of those detained are directly linked to Wednesday’s Bardo Museum bloodshed, according to a statement from Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi.

Earlier Thursday, Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid identified two suspects, Yassine Labidi and Saber Khachnaou, in an interview with French radio station RTL.

Labidi was “known to the security services, he was flagged and monitored,” Essid said. But he added the man wasn’t known or being followed for anything special.

Health Minister Said Aidi said Thursday that 23 people are believed to have been killed, including at least one who died of wounds overnight.

The foreigners who died were of various backgrounds — from a Spanish married couple to a Colombian mother and son — and included three Italians, three Japanese, two French, two Poles, a Belgian and a Briton, according to their respective governments. Three Tunisians, one of them a security officer and another a job applicant, were also killed, according to Aidi.

Another 36 people remain hospitalized, while eight others were treated and released.

While foreigners suffered most directly, Essid said the attackers also sought to undermine Tunisia itself.

“It’s a cowardly attack mainly targeting the economy of Tunisia,” he said Wednesday. “We should unite to defend our country.”

Taxi driver: ‘They hit … our livelihood’
Nine of those killed had been aboard the MSC Splendida, a cruise ship with more than 3,700 passengers and nearly 1,300 crew that docked in Tunis hours before the bloodshed. Three more victims came from a similar vessel, the Costa Fascinosa, which was at port in the Tunisian capital at the same time.

Two Spaniards, Juan Carlos Sanchez and Cristina Rubio, hid overnight in the Bardo Museum only to be later found safe, a Spanish Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

The Bardo had been a logical stop for these tourists, housed next to Tunisia’s Parliament in a 19th century palace and cast as a “jewel of Tunisian heritage,” with its exhibits showcasing the country’s art, culture and history.

Its prominent place in Tunisia’s economy — which banks heavily on tourism, with millions visiting the country each year — also made it a logical target for terrorists.

source CNN

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