Tunisia Prime Minister: Leading suspect in museum attack dies in anti-terrorist operations

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Photo Courtesy: MGN Online

TUNIS, Tunisia – A leading suspect in a deadly museum attack on foreign tourists has been killed in anti-terrorist operations, Tunisia’s prime minister said Sunday.

State news agency TAP cites Prime Minister Habib Essid as saying that Khaled Chaieb, also known as Abou Sakhr Lokman, was killed overnight in an operation in the Gafsa region near the Algerian border. In all, nine terrorist suspects were killed in raids around the country.

Chaieb is believed a prominent militant in al Qaeda’s North African arm, and suspected of leading or helping lead the March 18 attack on the National Bardo Museum.

Assailants killed 22 people, mostly foreigners, and two of the gunmen were killed in an ensuing shootout with police.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Tunisians from across the political spectrum marched through the capital Sunday to denounce extremist violence.

French President Francois Hollande, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and several foreign ministers and legislators from other countries are joining an anti-terrorism ceremony in Tunis after the march.

The Tunisian government called on all major political parties to join the march from the seat of government at Bab Es-Saadoun to the museum.

The international visitors are showing solidarity with Tunisia, whose fragile new democracy was deeply shaken by the museum attack.

Tunisian protesters unleashed revolts across the region known as the Arab Spring, and Tunisia is the only country to have built a democratic system as a result.

Authorities are struggling with scattered extremist violence linked to various radical Islamic groups, largely linked to neighboring countries Algeria or Libya.

Interior Ministry spokesman Ali Aroui said Sunday that nine suspected “terrorists” were killed when security forces clashed with the suspects in the southwest region near the Algerian border. He said several extremists were wounded in another clash in the northwest region of Kef, as part of security operations around the country ahead of the march.