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23 suspects arrested over Tunis museum attack: minister

The minister said the operation was organized by an Algerian jihadist named Lokmane Abou Sakhr

Published: Updated:

Tunisia said Thursday that it had arrested 23 suspects in connection with last week’s jihadist massacre at the country’s national museum.

“Twenty-three suspects including a woman have been arrested as part of a terrorist cell” involved in the attack, Interior Minister Najem Gharsalli told journalists, adding that “80 percent of this cell” had been broken up.

All of those arrested were Tunisians, he said, adding that another Tunisian, two Moroccans and an Algerian suspected of being members of the cell were on the run.

The Tunisian, Maher Ben Mouldi Kaidi, was previously identified as a suspect and is alleged to have provided the automatic weapons to the two gunmen who shot dead 21 people -- including 20 foreign tourists -- at the Bardo Museum in Tunis on March 18.

The minister said the operation was organized by an Algerian jihadist named Lokmane Abou Sakhr, one of the leaders of the al-Qaeda-linked Okba Ibn Nafaa Brigade, the main Tunisian armed group active along the border with Algeria.

Responsibility for the attack was claimed however by al-Qaeda’s jihadist rival, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group.

“At this stage we cannot name (the group responsible),” Gharsalli said. “What is certain is that there are links with Okba Ibn Nafaa.”