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Islamic State group claims responsibility for deadly Tunisia knife attack

Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi vows to 'eradicate terrorists' after militant group says its 'fighters' were behind attack in coastal city of Sousse
Members of the Tunisian National guard carry the coffin of a fellow officer after he was killed in an attack in the city of Sousse.
Members of the Tunisian National Guard carry the coffin of a fellow officer after he was killed in an attack in the city of Sousse on 6 September 2020 (AFP)

The Islamic State (IS) group on Monday claimed responsibility for a knife attack in Tunisia that killed one National Guard officer and wounded another, as security forces rounded up more suspects and made arrests.

The armed group said its "fighters" carried out the attack in a brief statement by its propaganda arm Amaq on the Telegram messenger service.

"Photos show that one of the attackers was wearing a T-shirt with a specific inscription to Daesh [IS]," Mokhtar Ben Nasr, former head of the National Counter-Terrorism Commission, said while stressing it was difficult to establish precise links between the group and its supporters.

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The attack on Sunday in a tourist district of the coastal city of Sousse saw a group of assailants ram a National Guard patrol with a vehicle before stabbing the officers.

They were then chased by security forces before three attackers were shot dead in an ensuing gun battle, the guard said, describing it as a "terrorist" act.

National Guard officer Sami Mrabet, a 38-year-old father of two, was buried on Monday in the presence of more than 1,000 people, including several government officials.

The wounded officer was "in a stable condition", interior ministry spokesman Khaled Hayouni told AFP.

The incident took place close to the site of one of the deadliest attacks in Tunisia - when 38 people, most of whom were British citizens, were killed in a beachside shooting rampage in 2015.

Tunisia, since its 2011 revolution, has been hit by a string of attacks that have killed dozens of security personnel, civilians and foreign tourists.

Sunday's attack was also the first of its kind since March, when a suicide operation against security forces protecting the US embassy in Tunis killed a Tunisian police officer and left several others wounded.

Tunisian authorities on Monday said they had arrested seven people over the attack.

PM vows to 'eradicate terrorists'

Tunisia's President Kais Saied said on Sunday that police were investigating whether it was planned "by individuals or an organisation".

Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi promised to "eradicate terrorists as soon as possible".

Mechichi, in a statement from his office, urged Tunisians "not to be afraid" of assailants, whom he described as "microbes".

In addition to the seven arrests, 43 people have been questioned, National Guard spokesman Houcem Eddine Jebabli said to the private station Radio Shems.

They included "the wife of one of the assailants, who described her husband as a 'martyr' during the interrogation", he said.

Jebabli said the attackers consisted of twin brothers and a third man from the marginalised northwestern region of Siliana. He did not confirm or deny reports of a fourth assailant.

Jebabli said the twins had visited Facebook pages dealing with "explosive and armed attacks", but had stayed under the radar of the authorities.