Details on the IS Virtual Planner Attack in Akouda

Two national guardsmen were attacked by three terrorists in a car ramming attack on Sunday morning at 6:45am. The terrorists then got out of the car, stabbed them, stole their weapons, and quickly drove away. One of the national guardsmen was killed and the other was initially in critical condition. Following four hours of surgery, the surviving national guardsmen is now in stable condition. It occurred at the junction between Akouda and Khalij El-Mala’ika, right near Port El Kantoui in Sousse governorate. In the aftermath of the attack, security units combed the area and found the terrorists in a school in the Hatim neighborhood of Akouda and killed all three of them after an exchange of fire. Security units also recovered the weapons seized by the terrorists from the national guardsmen following their attack. They also took the knives used in the attack and the individuals’ phones/memory cards from their bodies for further research.

Based on the investigation of the cell phones, the two brothers involved in the attack were in contact with foreign “pages” and received training on how to stab and poison. This seems to be confirmed by the fact that IS claimed responsibility for the attack on Monday afternoon Tunisia time. Moreover, Sufyan al-Sulayti, the official spokesperson of the judicial pole for combating terrorism, said the individuals had not been on the security agency’s radar previously, but believed they are sympathetic to IS since their clothing had the group’s emblem on it. This would suggest that the attack was a virtual planner type of attack. This is the first time IS has claimed responsibility for an attack in Tunisia since its IED attacks earlier this year in January and March. It is the first IS claimed attack in a city since the attacks against security forces in Tunis in June/July 2019.

Brigadier General Husam al-Din al-Jabali, spokesperson for the National Guard, suggests due to measures taken by the government it has been harder for terrorists to acquire weapons now so they have to rely on more low tech-style attacks such as car rammings and stabbings.

Reports from a Tunisian official suggests that two of the attackers were brothers and originally from Akouda. One was born in 1995 and worked in a carpentry, while the other was born in 2001 and was an intern at a vocational training center. According to their father, he had allegedly told security services in the area back in 2018 that he was worried about his sons’ change in behavior and the group of people they surrounded themselves with were sympathetic to jihadis. The third individual that took part in the attack was born in 1990 and originally from Maktar in Siliana governorate, which is about 100 miles northwest of Sousse.

In the aftermath of the attack, security services arrested a fourth person in Sidi Bou Ali, 9 miles northwest of Akouda, in connection to the attackers in Akouda. They later raided his house in Enfidha, which is 15 miles northwest of where he was captured, for any new leads. He is 39 years old and is a known jihadi. As the day proceeded, 43 individuals were interrogated, while later on Sunday evening, the judicial pole for combating terrorism authorized the detention of seven of those individuals. One of them was the wife of one of the attackers, two brothers of one of the other terrorists, and three other individuals that are believed to be recruiters. On Wednesday September 9, two more individuals related to the attack were arrested. The first is an imam of a mosque in Akouda who is suspected of having observed a National Guard patrol and the second was allegedly aware of the operation and did not inform the police. On Friday September 11, two more individuals related to the attack were arrested. The first was responsible for the affairs of the mosque in Akouda and he enabled the terrorist group to have the keys to the mosque to hold meetings, while the second individual was in contact with the terrorists ahead of the attack, is friends with the third terrorist from Maktar and he admitted that he had prior knowledge of the attack and offered to participate in its execution.

Unrelated to these arrests, a women from Kalaa Seghira, 5 miles southwest of Akouda, who had previously been on the al-Karama Coalition’s, a conservative Islamist and salafi political party, legislative list in the previous election, was arrested for allegedly questioning on her Facebook page why the National Guard killed the three terrorists after the attack. Similarly, later on Monday three individuals were arrested from El Kef, Dahmani, and Kalaa Senan were arrested for glorifying the attack on their Facebook pages.

This was the first terrorist attack in Tunisia since an IED went off against a military patrol in Jabal Maghilah in Kasserine governorate on April 19, 2020. This was the first attack in a more urban area since the March 6, 2020 attack on a police patrol in Berges du Lac 2 in Tunis. Overall, the pace of attacks in Tunisia this year have been a lot less than in previous years. This is the sixth successful attack this year, with only three months left in the year. And four of the six were IED attacks in the mountains against military and security patrols/personnel and not in urban locales. Whereas last year had 29, which had been the lowest figure since 2014. So it’s important to contextualize this and to highlight how far Tunisia has come in recent years in dealing with its terrorism problem.

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