The Islamic State group has taken responsibility in an online audio recording for the deadly attack in Tunisia that ended the lives of 23 people, including two gunmen, and injured many more, according to The New York Times. Tourists from other countries who came to visit the famed National Bordo Museum were the majority of those killed on Wednesday, March 18.
In the video, the speakers praise the two dead gunmen, calling them “knights of the Islamic State,” according to NBC News. The recording says the attack targeted “citizens of the Crusader countries” and that Allah had “brought terror to the hearts of the infidels.”
Authorities in Tunisia arrested nine people they believe are accomplices of the assault, and two of the assailants died at the scene in the resulting fire from police forces. Authorities identified them as Yassine Laabidi and Hatem Khachnaoui, both Tunisian. Tunisian authorities, as well as international police, are still looking for more possible assailants, according to CNN.
The attack began when assailants, armed with military-grade machine guns, jumped out of a car and started shooting towards a line of tour buses that were outside the museum, according to the BBC. Tunisian police killed both assailants. According to CBS, the two gunman left Tunisia illegally in December 2014 and went to Libya for weapons training.
Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi said in a statement that four of the nine suspects under arrest had direct connections to the attack, according to The New York Times. He did not specify the exact reasons leading to the arrest of the other five. News reports indicated the police also arrested members of the family of one of the gunmen.
Describing the attack as “cowardly,” Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid said at a news conference that the tourists were fired at as they stepped off their buses to visit the museum near the North African nation’s parliament. He said Polish, Italian, German and Spanish citizens are among the dead.
This attack is a major blow for the North African country, as it heavily relies on tourism and is still trying to recover following the ousting of former dictator Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali that started the Arab Spring, according to NBC.
“I want the Tunisian people to understand once and for all that we are at war with the terrorists,” Essid said in a nationally televised address after the attack. “We will resist them to the last breath without pity or mercy.”
CBS reported several thousand young Tunisians are predicted to be fighting with the Islamic State group. There are fears they may come home armed with violent skills and radical ideologies, according to CBS. Tunisian officials have since acknowledged that their security system needs to be overhauled, a point underscored by the funeral of one of two guards killed in the attack.
Tunisian Minister of Culture Latifa Lakhdar described the attackers as “ignorant.”
“They are targeting knowledge, they are targeting science, they are targeting reason, they are targeting history,” Lakhdar said. “They are targeting memory because all these things mean nothing in their eyes.”
The government has struggled to defeat Islamist militant groups, mainly based in the area around Mount Chaambi near the Algerian border, according to The New York Times. At the same time, the simmering frustrations of many young men with a sputtering economy and police abuses, which continued after decades of autocracy, have helped make Tunisia a leading source of foreign fighters for the Islamic State in its battles in Syria and Iraq.
Editor’s Note: Information from The New York Times, CNN, the BBC, CBS and NBC was used in this report.