A statement by the ministry said: “Security forces from the Ministry of the Interior arrested five terrorists with direct links to the two terrorists who attempted to carry out terrorist attacks in Sousse and Monastir on Wednesday morning.”
Mohamed Ali Aroui, a spokesman for the interior ministry, said the two incidents were carried out by Salafist Takfiri Tunisians. Speaking on Shams FM radio, Aroui said the five suspects were members of Ansar Al-Sharia in Tunisia, which was declared an illegal terrorist organization by the interior ministry at the end of August 2013. The ministry also issued an international arrest warrant for its founder, Saifallah ben Hussein, also known as Abu Ayyad.
In Wednesday’s attack, a suicide bomber blew himself up at a tourist hotel in the coastal city of Sousse, 80 miles (130 kilometers) south of the capital, Tunis. No other casualties were reported.
Security sources told Ahsarq Al-Awsat that the bomber died when the explosive belt he was wearing was detonated on a beach near the hotel, shortly after he was prevented from entering the hotel by security staff.
Security sources added that the explosive belt may have been detonated remotely to prevent the attack’s planners being betrayed to the authorities.
The sources named the bomber as Tunisian national Mohamed Khalili ben Youssef, 22, from Tunis.
A Tunisian expert on Islamist groups, Aaliya Al-Lani, told Asharq Al-Awsat that these two incidents formed a dangerous shift in the type of terrorist attacks in the country. He said the fight against terror had become a priority in Tunisia and that it was necessary to establish a strong intelligence agency as soon as possible to combat the threat.
Meanwhile, in the town of Monastir, 12 miles (20 kilometers) south of Sousse, security forces defused explosives carried by a young man near the grave of former Tunisian president Habib Bourguiba.
Hicham Gharbi, a spokesman for presidential security service, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the man who allegedly tried to blow himself up at the grave was barely 18 years old and from the town of Zaghouan, 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Tunis. He had previous convictions and four existing warrants for his arrest. Gharbi added that the young man was carrying an explosives-laden backpack when stopped and searched by security force personnel.
The interior ministry, meanwhile, requested that media sources only use its official statements for information following growing rumors regarding planned suicide attacks in other Tunisian towns.
The Tunisian Minister of Tourism interrupted a visit to Bahrain following the incidents and returned to Tunisia in order to follow developments and consider the repercussions of the attacks on the tourism industry.
Sources at the Ministry of Tourism have said the incidents in Sousse and Monastir, two popular Tunisian tourist towns, would have a negative effect on the tourism industry. They added that the new form of terror in Tunisia was very worrying and may impact negatively on the country’s tourist industry, a major source of income.