Saturday, March 21, 2015
Stratfor Reports on Tunis Attack
"You get your intel for various sources."
|March 21, 2015 | 16:23 GMT|
Tunisian authorities arrested more than 20 suspected militants March 21 as part of a nationwide security crackdown following the Bardo museum attack, officials said, Reuters reported. The March 18 attack, which killed 20 foreign tourists and three Tunisians, came at a fragile moment for a country just emerging to full democracy. Government officials also said the two gunmen responsible for the attack had trained in jihadist camps in Libya before, though details are still unclear.
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|March 19, 2015 | 17:50 GMT|
It is still uncertain whether the attack was a botched attempt against Tunisia's parliament or an intentional one against the softer target presented by tourists at the nearby museum.
Photos of dead gunmen have surfaced that contradict early reports that the attackers were clothed in military uniforms. The men were clearly wearing ordinary civilian attire. The photos also refute statements by Tunisian officials that the men were wearing explosive suicide belts and had sophisticated weapons. They were armed with older-model Kalashnikov rifles.
The gunmen have been identified as Yassine Laabidi and Hatem Khachnaoui, both Tunisians. Authorities knew of Laabidi, but the government states that it has no intelligence linking the men to any known terrorist group. Islamic State sympathizers have claimed the attack on pro-Islamic State websites, but that claim is unsubstantiated at this point.
Determining whether this was an intentional attack against tourists or a coincidental secondary attack after the gunmen were rebuffed by security at the parliament could clarify their actual motive. If it was accidental, it means the group may not be planning additional attacks against soft, tourist-related targets elsewhere in the country. However, with the publicity this attack has received it could serve to shift the targeting of the group involved, or inspire other, unrelated groups to attack tourists.
If it was an intentional attack against tourists, that would not be a new phenomenon in the region. Jihadists have struck tourism-related targets on multiple occasions in recent years. Al Qaeda-linked jihadists conducted a truck bomb attack against a synagogue in Djerba, Tunisia, in 2002, as well as multiple attacks against tourist resorts and buses in Sinai. They have also struck tourist targets in Casablanca and Marrakech, Morocco. Suicide bombers belonging to al Qaeda in Iraq, the Islamic State's predecessor organization, also targeted three tourist hotels in Amman, Jordan, in 2005.
Despite the death toll, which now stands at 23, including 20 foreign tourists, the attack was small and not particularly well planned or executed. The simple tactics used — an armed assault against a soft target — did not require any advanced terrorist tradecraft or training. The men involved could have received basic insurgent warfare training at a jihadist camp but clearly were not highly trained operators.
They could have been grassroots jihadist sympathizers similar to those who have conducted armed assaults in France and Canada. AK-47s and other weapons are plentiful in North Africa. Large quantities of weapons were brought to the region to arm militias opposing former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. During and after the conflict, Libyan state arms depots were looted, adding to the surplus of weapons in the region.
Given the instability in the region, the number of jihadist fighters who come from Tunisia, and the manner in which Tunisia's domestic security forces were weakened following the 2011 revolution, such an attack was not unexpected. Therefore, even if the Islamic State is responsible for this attack, as it claims, its capabilities in Tunisia appear to be limited.
|March 19, 2015 | 16:27 GMT|
The Islamic State issued an online statement March 19 claiming it was responsible for the attack on a Tunisian museum that killed 23 people, mostly tourists, AP reported. The statement promised that more attacks would be conducted in the future.