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Tunisia Arrests Beach Massacre Suspects and Closes 80 Mosques

The North African country is clamping down after 38 people were killed in Friday's shooting. But experts say that shutting down mosques may just drive radical elements underground.
Photo by Abdeljalil Bounhar/AP

As government representatives from several countries traveled to Tunisia today to pay their respects to the 38 people killed in Friday's horrific beach attack, authorities there sought to clamp down on those accountable.

Tunisia's interior minister, Mohamed Najem Gharsalli, said that 1,000 troops will be deployed to protect the country's resorts, and multiple arrests were made today in connection to last week's massacre.


The government also stated that about 80 mosques accused of inciting violence will be closed within a week, a move that experts told VICE News would only backfire and drive radical elements underground.

Tunisian authorities said that while 23-year-old Seifeddine Rezgui was the lone attacker, he had accomplices who provided him with weapons and logistical support.

While conceding that the investigation of those arrested remained in its early stages, Gharsalli claimed that everyone arrested is Tunisian.

Related: Gunman Kills 37 People on Tunisian Tourist Beach

A source close to the investigation told the Associated Press that seven people are being interrogated in relation to the attack, while four people were arrested on Monday. The incident, in the popular beach resort of Sousse on the Mediterranean coast, was one of the worst in Tunisian recent history.

The Islamic State group (IS) has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Over the weekend, Tunisian authorities also announced that around 80 mosques will be shut down.

Speaking to VICE News, Tunisian political analyst Youssef Cherif claimed that this is not the right move.

"It's a very radical step by the government, Cherif said. "By closing down mosques which are suspected of harboring and training radicals, the government isn't able to monitor them. They will only push them in to forming clandestine groups. The risks haven't been calculated," he added.


Speaking about the threat of terrorism in Tunisia, Cherif claimed that he believes things are "now taking a new turn."

"I still don't see the state collapsing like in Syria or Iraq, but yes I believe the situation is currently more dangerous than it has been in previous years, and if it is not addressed properly it will only exacerbate. Some people who are wanting a more authoritarian state are only driving the problem deeper," he said.

"I don't think that by being more authoritarian we will correct the course of the country. I hope people in Tunisia will keep faith in democracy."

Of the 38 people killed, who were mainly tourists, at least 18 have been confirmed as being British citizens. Reports on Monday also suggested that the UK toll could rise to as high as 30, making it the worst attack on British citizens since the 7/7 bombings in 2005 on London transport that killed 52 commuters.

Speaking in the House of Commons today, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced that a commemoration would be held for the UK victims at midday on Friday.

Cameron went on to say that the global nature of the struggle against terrorism meant "nowhere is without risk from Islamist extremist terrorists."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.