ISIS Claims Responsibility for Tunisia Killing Spree

AP Photo/Christophe Ena
AP Photo/Christophe Ena

Fox News reports that ISIS is claiming responsibility for the horrific shooting spree at the National Bardo Museum in Tunisia, in a statement describing the attack as a “blessed invasion of one of the dens of infidels and vice in Muslim Tunisia.”

The statement was issued through an online forum known to carry messages from the Islamic State.

The SITE Intelligence Group, which has analyzed international terrorism for over a decade, also pinned responsibility for the attack on ISIS, according to the Fox report.

The attack was carried out by two gunmen, believed to be part of a larger terror cell, who hit the museum wearing military-style uniforms and wielding assault rifles. They managed to kill 23 people, at last count, before being shot by security officers.  Twenty of the victims were foreign tourists from a wide range of countries.

There has been significant speculation about an ISIS role in the massacre, which would provide unsettling evidence that the Islamic State’s influence is spreading through their beachhead in Libya. As NBC News reported, ISIS supporters have been expressing their approval of the attack on Twitter, and on Tuesday, a pro-ISIS media operation in north Africa released audio of a Tunisian terrorist affiliated with Ansar al-Sharia (which played a prominent role in that “spontaneous video protest” in Benghazi back in 2012, and has lately been describing itself as an “emirate” of the Islamic State “caliphate”) threatening the Tunisian government.

There was also a threat directly from ISIS floating through its social media network two days before the museum slaughter, claiming an attack was imminent. An analyst quoted by International Business Times said there were two versions of this message: “There is one version of this message for the Muslims, that says ‘a message that will rejoice you.’ There is another version that would be sent out to the enemies that said ‘a message that will harm you.’”

A direct message sent to some of the Islamic State’s Twitter followers announced: “Urgent news – the state of the caliphate will soon send you a message about the state of Tunisia.”

Tunisia has long been viewed as a relatively stable part of the Middle East with a good tourism economy; it was ground zero for the “Arab Spring” movement, which was absurdly romanticized by the media and the Obama Administration as the flourishing of peaceful democracy and honest government across the Middle East.  But Tunisia has also provided the largest cohort of ISIS recruits from any single country – over 3,000 core members of al-Qaeda, with a Tunisian official quoted by NBC News estimating another 2,000 suspected terrorists on standby in his country, described as potential “lone wolves” even though there was nothing lone-wolfish about the coordinated assault on the museum.

The consequences of Barack Obama’s failure to halt the “junior varsity team” of terrorism before it established its “caliphate” in Syria and Iraq, and his failure to deal effectively and honestly with the Benghazi attack, continue to mount.  If the Islamic State consolidates its hold on Libya and puts down roots in Tunisia and beyond, this catastrophe will grow by an order of magnitude.