On March 18, 2015, the entire world was shocked by another terrorist attack by the Islamic State. This time they attacked in Tunisia’s capital Tunis. The attacks targeted Western tourists. After a day of utter chaos it became clear that in the attack on the Bardo National Museum 23 people got killed, most of them European tourists.
As such, an attack on European tourists didn’t really come as a surprise after a statement of the Islamic State’s spokesman al-Adnānī, published in September 2014. What is remarkable though is the location where they were attacked. Tunisia was the first country where the so-called Arab spring hit; the day Muhammad Bouazizi (December 17, 2010) set himself alight, the spark soon spread throughout North-Africa and the Middle East. After a swift removal of president Ben Ali, it seemed Tunisia was heading for some way of reform. Although Islamist factions tried gaining ground, some reason kicked in. In the recent elections of October 2014 one could say moderates and democrats gained ground.
Then again, Tunisia has had about 3.000 of its nationals fighting in either Syria or Iraq, a lot of them in the ranks of the Islamic State. It is estimated that about 500 of them have returned home. One could expect security forces are already overly occupied by monitoring those coming back, let alone keep an eye on those who travel to neighboring Libya for training within IS affiliate branches. Yet this is where the danger is; small, yet highly trained and organized, sleeper cells that can hit anytime, anywhere.
A most remarkable detail regarding this attack, is that it was, indirectly, announced two days before it actually happened. On March 16 I received a linked tweet reading : “Urgent. The Caliphate State will soon send you glad tidings from Tunisia, if God wills it.” At that time I thought it would be an obscure claim of a pledge of allegiance from some smaller group. Yet when the attacks were reported live on Twitter more similar tweets from March 16th turned up, somehow announcing the attacks.
As expected a statement was released later claiming the attacks, plainly titled “Claiming the Bardo Museum Operation in Islamic Tunisia”. There was no direct link with any of the official IS media outlets, yet all the major IS Twitter accounts supported and reinforced the message.
Here are the audio and text statements