Al Jazeera’s Kim Vinnell reports on the Tunisia attack.
Antoine Lambroschini, AFP
The Islamic State jihadist group has claimed responsibility for an attack on foreign tourists at Tunisia’s national museum that killed 21 people, including an Australian man.
The authorities meanwhile said they had identified the two dead gunmen behind Wednesday’s assault, which prompted calls for a show of national unity against extremism in the birthplace of the Arab Spring.
In an audio message posted online, IS said that ‘two knights from the Islamic State… heavily armed with automatic weapons and grenades, targeted the Bardo Museum’ in the capital.
The group, which has hundreds of Tunisians among its ranks, threatened more attacks, saying: ‘What you have seen is only the start.’
On Thursday, around 200 demonstrators gathered outside the museum where the attack killed 20 foreigners and at least one Tunisian, chanting ‘Terrorism Out’ and laying down flowers at the entrance.
The president’s office said security forces arrested ‘four people directly linked to the [terrorist] operation and five suspected of having ties to the cell’.
He named the two gunmen killed by security forces at the museum as Yassine Abidi and Hatem Khachnaoui, adding that Abidi was known to police.
The presidency said soldiers are to be deployed in major cities following the museum assault.
As international outrage grew over Tunisia’s worst post-revolution attack, President Beji Caid Essebsi vowed to fight extremists ‘without mercy to our last breath’.
Panic had broken out as gunmen in military uniforms opened fire at visitors as they got off a bus and then chased them inside the museum.
The dead included 28-year-old Australian-Colombian dual national Javier Cameloan and his Colombian mother, three Japanese, two Spaniards, a British woman, a Belgian woman, two French, a Pole and an Italian.
Dozens more people were wounded in the assault, in a massive blow to Tunisia’s heavily tourism-dependent economy.
At least two major cruise ship operators suspended stopovers in Tunis following the attack.
A Japanese survivor described how she and her mother were shot in the hail of bullets.
‘I was crouching down with my arms over my head, but I was shot in the ear, hand and neck,’ 35-year-old Noriko Yuki said from her hospital bed in comments aired by Japanese broadcaster NHK.
‘My mother beside me was shot in the neck.’
After cowering in fear in the museum during the night, two Spanish tourists were discovered alive and well, officials said.
The government, in a show of defiance, said the National Bardo Museum would reopen early next week.
Tunisia has seen an upsurge in Islamist extremism since the 2011 revolution that ousted longtime strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and sparked the Arab Spring uprisings around the region.