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Gunmen Named and Accomplices Arrested in Tunisia Museum Attacks, as Death Toll Rises

Two gunmen responsible for Wednesday's attack on the Bardo museum in Tunis have been identified and nine suspects have been detained. Meanwhile, the number of victims has risen to 23.

by Jenna Corderoy
Mar 19 2015, 2:10pm

Photo par Salah Ben Mahmoud/AP

The gunmen responsible for Wednesday's attack on the Bardo museum in Tunis have been identified and authorities have now detained four suspects accused of direct involvement with the incident. Meanwhile, the death toll has risen to 23.

Security forces killed two of the attackers, who have been named as Yassine Laabidi — who security services had flagged but were not aware if he had any militant links — and Hatem Khachnaoui. 

According to the Tunisian president's office, by Thursday nine people have been arrested in connection with the attack. The Telegraph reported that four of the detained suspects are "directly linked to the [terrorist] operation," while five others are "suspected of having ties to the cell." Security has also been stepped up across major Tunisian cities in the wake of the massacre.

The country's health minister said the number of foreign tourists killed in the incident has now jumped from 17 to 20. Three Tunisians, including a police officer, also died. Officials in Tunisia have said that more than 40 people were injured.

Onlookers cheered security forces as they left the scene of the Bardo Museum hostage situation in Tunis on March 18. From 2.32 in this video, which shows scenes from the beginning of the hostage situation to its conclusion, onlookers can be heard cheering security forces and emergency services as they depart the museum.

Sayda Ounissi, a member of the Tunisian parliament, told the BBC that the security services said parliament was the original target of the attack, but the gunmen, dressed in military-style clothing, went to the museum after they were "blocked before entering parliament."

"They just started opening fire on the tourists as they were getting out of the buses... I couldn't see anything except blood and the dead," a driver of a tourist coach told journalists. Tourists fled into the museum, where the gunmen took several hostages.

There has been speculation that the Islamic State was behind the attacks and the group appeared to claim responsibility for the incident on Thursday.

The attacks have caused international outcry, with leaders tweeting condolences to the families of the victims and Tunisia. On Wednesday night, hundreds of Tunisians gathered to condemn the attacks.

Meanwhile, details of those who died in the attacks — including citizens of Spain, Poland, Japan, Italy, Australia, France, Colombia, and the UK — have began to emerge. On Thursday, the UK Foreign Office confirmed the death of a British woman in the attack, named in media reports as Sally Adey.

Related: Gunmen kill 19 people, mostly tourists, in Tunisia museum attack. Read more here.

A dual Australian-Colombian citizen, identified as Javier Camelo, 28, and his mother, were also killed. It was reported that Camelo, the son of a retired Colombian army general, was visiting Tunis with his father, mother, and brother as part of a Mediterranean cruise. His father and the other brother were unharmed.

The Japan Times reported that three Japanese women were killed and another three were injured in the attack. The victims have been named, according to government sources, as Machiyo Narusawa, 66, Chiemi Miyazaki, 49, and Haruka Miyazaki, 22.

Hundreds of Tunisians rallied on the streets of Tunis on Wednesday, March 18, in a show of solidarity with the victims of the Bardo attack.

One of three Italian victims was named as Francesco Caldara, a 64-year-old pensioner. He was reportedly killed as he sat on a bus that had been parked outside the museum. His partner was wounded.

Two Spanish victims have been named as Antoni Cirera Pérez, 75, and Dolores Sánchez Rami, 73, a retired couple who traveled to Tunis on board the MSC Splendida cruise ship.

Follow Jenna Corderoy on Twitter: @JennaCorderoy