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Third museum killer 'is still on the run', says Tunisia

A third gunman involved in a shocking Islamic militant attack that killed 23 people at a Tunis museum last week is still on the run.

Two gunmen were shot dead at the scene and authorities have so far arrested more than 20 people, of which 10 are believed by officials to have been directly involved in the attack. Some had recently returned from fighting for Islamist militant groups in Syria and Libya.

"For sure, there were three because they have been identified and filmed on surveillance cameras," Tunisian president Beji Caid Essebsi said in a TV interview yesterday.

"There are two who were executed and one who is on the run somewhere. But in any case, he won't get far," Mr Essebsi said.

A Tunisian security source said investigations were still ongoing, but the third suspect appeared to have been involved in directing the attack and logistics, rather than as a gunman. He was known to authorities as an extremist, the source said.

"A third is being sought, he was a participant," the source said.

Tunisia's Interior Ministry released security camera footage yesterday of Wednesday's attack, showing two gunmen walking through the museum, carrying assault rifles and bags.

At one point they encounter a third man with a backpack walking down a flight of stairs. They briefly acknowledge each other before walking in opposite directions.

Police responding to the attack shot and killed the two gunmen. They were identified as Tunisians in their 20s who had trained in Libya.

Mr Essebsi said the extremists, who have recruited about 3,000 Tunisians to fight in Iraq and Syria, have no credible connection to Islamic belief. He said his country was at war with them.

"When war is brought upon us, we will wage war," he said.

Mr Essebsi said there were as many as 10,000 young Tunisian jihadists in all.

"Among the often desperate young unemployed, the call to jihadism has worked," he said.

"Four thousand Tunisians have joined jihad, in Syria, Libya and elsewhere, and some 500 have already come back here, where they pose a threat. That is not to mention the five or six thousand others we have succeeded in preventing from leaving."

"This attack will have an impact, no doubt. But so far we have only had a small number of cancellations," Tourism Minister Salma Loumi said. "On the contrary, we are seeing support from Western countries and travel agencies."

Isil militants - who have taken over parts of Iraq and Syria - have claimed responsibility for the attack.

But social media accounts tied to an al-Qa'ida-affiliated group in Tunisia have also published purported details of the operation.

Whoever was responsible, the Bardo museum attack illustrates how Islamist militants are turning their sights on North Africa.

A particular focus is neighbouring Libya, where two rival governments are battling for control, allowing Isil to gain a foothold.

Isil controls large swathes of Iraq and Syria, and has claimed responsibility for suicide bombings at two mosques that killed at least 137 people in the capital of Yemen on Friday.

Irish Independent

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