Tunisia beach killer trained with museum gunmen

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At Least 27 People Gunned Down in Attack at Tunisian Beachside Resort

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) -- The student who massacred tourists in a Tunisian seaside resort trained in a jihadi camp in Libya at the same time as the two men who attacked a leading museum in March, a top security official said Tuesday, enforcing the notion of a link between the two assaults and raising fears of more attacks from an underground world clawing at this North African nation's budding democracy.

Investigators were searching nationwide for accomplices in the attack that killed 38 tourists and questioning a handful recently detained.

"It has been confirmed that the attacker trained in Libya with weapons at the same period as the Bardo attackers," said Rafik Chelli, the secretary of state for the Interior Ministry. "He crossed the borders secretly."

Chelli said Seifeddine Rezgui, a 24-year-old who obtained a Master degree in electrical engineering, left his studies at Kairouan University and sneaked into the western Libyan town of Sabratha in January - when the two young men who carried out the museum attack in Tunis were there.

Sabratha, the site of Roman ruins, is one of several places in chaotic Libya where radical groups have training camps. The Islamic State, which has a strong Libyan presence, claimed responsibility for the beach resort attack.

There has been no previous indication that Rezgui had left Tunisia.

Rezgui has been portrayed as a good student. He received his one-year Masters degree, at one point liked break dancing and even getting a certificate, and practicing Kung Fu, according to a person with knowledge of the investigation. The person was not authorized to speak publicly and asked not to be identified.

A fellow student in Kairouan, Saidi Fedi, 25, described him as a model of magnanimity - but a member of the student branch of Ansar al Sharia, an Islamist group,

"Seif participated in the meetings ... on a lower level. He was not one of the leaders," Feidi said in an interview, referring to the university's Islamic Youth group.

"He was the least radical of the group in which he was active. He was one who took part in the debates, and he accepted different views. He didn't argue aggressively," Feidi said. "He didn't answer with anger" when debating with students who supported the Syrian government. "He didn't do anything that could give us a clue."

The head of post-graduate Institute for Applied Sciences and Technology, attended by the attacker expressed equal shock.

"We informed the police so they could be sure of his identity and personal data," said Karim Ben Elgharat. "We didn't see anything strange about him. He was a good and assiduous student."

The invisibility of the attacker, like those who carried out the Bardo attack, is for Tunisia and elsewhere, the biggest challenge in preventing terrorism.

The spokesman for the Interior Ministry, Mohamed Ali Aroui, said it was not immediately clear whether Rezgui trained in the same group as the Bardo attackers or whether they were linked to the Islamic State organization.

But the presence of radical groups in Libya increases the threat level to its Tunisian neighbor, as does the approaching end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and its "night of destiny," which falls in mid-July this year.

It is a night that holds risks, said the person with knowledge of the investigation.

The "night of destiny" is considered a propitious time for good actions, which for jihadis means killings, said Mathieu Guidere, an Islamic scholar at the University of Toulouse.

See photos from the scene of the attack:

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Tunisia terrorist attack, Sousse Beach
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Tunisia beach killer trained with museum gunmen
SOUSSE, TUNISIA - JUNE 26: A suspect man is arrested after an armed attack on a tourist hotel in Sousse, east Tunisia, left at least 27 people dead, including foreigners, and injured six others , on June 26, 2015. (Photo by Med Amine Ben Aziza /Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Security measures are taken after an armed attack on a tourist hotel in Sousse, east Tunisia, left at least 27 people dead, including foreigners, and injured six others , on June 26, 2015. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
The bodies of people are seen after an armed attack on a tourist hotel in Sousse, east Tunisia, left at least 27 people dead, including foreigners, and injured six others , on June 26, 2015. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Wounded people are carried after an armed attack on a tourist hotel in Sousse, east Tunisia, left at least 27 people dead, including foreigners, and injured six others , on June 26, 2015. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
In this screen grab taken from video provided by Tunisia TV1, injured people are treated on a Tunisian beach Friday June 26, 2015. Two gunmen rushed from the beach into a hotel in the Tunisian resort town of Sousse Friday, killing at least 27 people and wounding six others in the latest attack on the North African country's key tourism industry, the Interior Ministry said. (Tunisia TV1 via AP)
In this screen grab taken from video provided by Tunisia TV1, injured people are treated on a Tunisian beach Friday June 26, 2015. Two gunmen rushed from the beach into a hotel in the Tunisian resort town of Sousse Friday, killing at least 27 people and wounding six others in the latest attack on the North African country's key tourism industry, the Interior Ministry said. (Tunisia TV1 via AP 
In this screen grab taken from video provided by Tunisia TV1, injured people are treated on a Tunisian beach Friday June 26, 2015. Two gunmen rushed from the beach into a hotel in the Tunisian resort town of Sousse Friday, killing at least 27 people and wounding six others in the latest attack on the North African country's key tourism industry, the Interior Ministry said. (Tunisia TV1 via AP) 
In this screen grab taken from video provided by Tunisia TV1, injured people are treated on a Tunisian beach Friday June 26, 2015. Two gunmen rushed from the beach into a hotel in the Tunisian resort town of Sousse Friday, killing at least 27 people and wounding six others in the latest attack on the North African country's key tourism industry, the Interior Ministry said. (Tunisia TV1 via AP)
Bodies are covered on a Tunisian beach, in Sousse, Friday June 26, 2015. A young man unfurled an umbrella and pulled out a Kalashnikov, opening fire on European sunbathers in an attack that killed at least 28 people at a Tunisian beach resort — one of three deadly attacks from Europe to the Middle East on Friday that followed a call to violence by Islamic State extremists. (Jawhara FM via AP)
Armed forces patrol the area near a Tunisian beach, in Sousse, Friday June 26, 2015. A young man unfurled an umbrella and pulled out a Kalashnikov, opening fire on European sunbathers in an attack that killed at least 28 people at a Tunisian beach resort — one of three deadly attacks from Europe to the Middle East on Friday that followed a call to violence by Islamic State extremists. (Jawhara FM via AP)
An injured person is treated on a Tunisian beach, in Sousse, Friday June 26, 2015. A young man unfurled an umbrella and pulled out a Kalashnikov, opening fire on European sunbathers in an attack that killed at least 28 people at a Tunisian beach resort — one of three deadly attacks from Europe to the Middle East on Friday that followed a call to violence by Islamic State extremists. (Jawhara FM via AP)
Blood and material on the ground near the area where an attack took place in Sousse, Tunisia, Friday June 26, 2015. A young man unfurled an umbrella and pulled out a Kalashnikov, opening fire on European sunbathers in an attack that killed at least 28 people at a Tunisian beach resort — one of three deadly attacks from Europe to the Middle East on Friday that followed a call to violence by Islamic State extremists. (AP Photo/Hassene Dridi)
Map locates Sousse, Tunisia, where gunmen killed several people.; 1c x 3 inches; 46.5 mm x 76 mm;
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Tunisia has struggled since its 2011 revolution to maintain the fragile democracy it has managed to put in place - the only one to emerge from the Arab Spring uprisings. At the same time, it is has seen the highest number of its citizens, some 3,000, head to Syria and Iraq to fight with radical jihadi groups, including the Islamic State group. They usually travel via Libya, getting training on the way. Increasingly, they have trained there before returning to carry out attacks in Tunisia. Tunisia's most well-known Islamic radical Seifallah Ben Hassine, fled to Libya in 2013 taking many supporters with him into exile.

Guidere, who tracks Islamist groups, cited the Soldiers of the Caliphate of Tunisia, a recent group linked to the Islamic State group, as the most likely suspect behind the Sousse attack. It claimed responsibility for the Bardo Museum attack. The small group, he said, is made up of some of the 400 to 500 returnees from Syria and Iraq.

There has been criticism of the government's handling of security, especially since tourists had clearly become a target after the museum attackers killed 22 people in March.

President Beji Caid Essebsi revealed Tuesday morning that heightened security measures had been scheduled to be put in place just days after the beach attack.

See photos of memorials and the attack aftermath:

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Tunisia attack memorials, terrorism
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Tunisia beach killer trained with museum gunmen
A man kisses a Tunisian flag at the site of a shooting attack on the beach in front of the Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel in Port el Kantaoui, on the outskirts of Sousse south of the capital Tunis, on June 28, 2015. The Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility on June 27 for the massacre in the seaside resort that killed nearly 40 people, most of them British tourists, in the worst attack in the country's recent history. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
SOUSSE, TUNISIA - JUNE 28: Flowers and tributes are left at Marhaba beach near to where 38 people were killed on Friday in a terrorist attack on June 28, 2015 in Souuse, Tunisia. Sousse beaches remain quiet following the Tunisia beach attack which left 38 dead, including at least 15 Britons while numerous tourists returned to the UK with more set to follow in the coming days. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
SOUSSE, TUNISIA - JUNE 28: A candle and flowers are left at Marhaba beach near to where 38 people were killed on Friday in a terrorist attack on June 28, 2015 in Souuse, Tunisia. Sousse beaches remain quiet following the Tunisia beach attack which left 38 dead, including at least 15 Britons while numerous tourists returned to the UK with more set to follow in the coming days. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
A flower lays on a beach was the site of a shooting attack in Sousse, Tunisia, Saturday, June 27, 2015. The morning after a lone gunman killed dozens of people at a beach resort in Tunisia, busloads of tourists are heading to the nearby Enfidha-Hammamet airport hoping to return to their home countries. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
SOUSSE, TUNISIA - JUNE 27: A woman grieves as she lay flowers at the beach next to the Imperial Marhaba Hotel where 38 people were killed yesterday in a terrorist attack on June 27, 2015 in Souuse, Tunisia. Habib Essid Prime Minister of Tunisia announced a clampdown on security after the attack on a holiday resort.. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Tourists mourn at the site of a shooting attack on the beach in front of the Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel in Port el Kantaoui, on the outskirts of Sousse south of the capital Tunis, on June 28, 2015. The Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility on June 27 for the massacre in the seaside resort that killed nearly 40 people, most of them British tourists, in the worst attack in the country's recent history. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
Flower bouqets are seen at the site of a shooting attack on the beach in front of the Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel in Port el Kantaoui, on the outskirts of Sousse south of the capital Tunis, on June 28, 2015. The Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility on June 27 for the massacre in the seaside resort that killed nearly 40 people, most of them British tourists, in the worst attack in the country's recent history. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
SOUSSE, TUNISIA - JUNE 27: People view flowers placed at the beach next to the Imperial Marhaba Hotel where 38 people were killed yesterday in a terrorist attack on June 27, 2015 in Souuse, Tunisia. Habib Essid Prime Minister of Tunisia announced a clampdown on security after the attack on a holiday resort.. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
SOUSSE, TUNISIA - JUNE 28: Tourists carry a Tunisian flag along Marhaba beach where 38 people were killed on Friday in a terrorist attack on June 28, 2015 in Souuse, Tunisia. Sousse beaches remain quiet following the Tunisia beach attack which left 38 dead, including at least 15 Britons. Around 1,000 tourists returned to the UK with more set to follow in the coming days. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
SOUSSE, TUNISIA - JUNE 28: Holidaymakers view flowers left on Marhaba beach where 38 people were killed on Friday in a terrorist attack on June 28, 2015 in Souuse, Tunisia. Sousse beaches remain quiet following the Tunisia beach attack which left 38 dead, including at least 15 Britons. Around 1,000 tourists returned to the UK with more set to follow in the coming days. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Camels are seen walking past flower bouquets at the site of a shooting attack on the beach in front of the Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel in Port el Kantaoui, on the outskirts of Sousse south of the capital Tunis, on June 28, 2015. The Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility on June 27 for the massacre in the seaside resort that killed nearly 40 people, most of them British tourists, in the worst attack in the country's recent history. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
SOUSSE, TUNISIA - JUNE 28: Armed police on patrol on Marhaba beach pass by tributes left to the 38 people killed on Friday in a terrorist attack on June 28, 2015 in Souuse, Tunisia. Sousse beaches remain quiet following the Tunisia beach attack which left 38 dead, including at least 15 Britons. Around 1,000 tourists returned to the UK with more set to follow in the coming days. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Tourists look at flowers at the site of a shooting attack on the beach in front of the Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel in Port el Kantaoui, on the outskirts of Sousse south of the capital Tunis, on June 28, 2015. The Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility on June 27 for the massacre in the seaside resort that killed nearly 40 people, most of them British tourists, in the worst attack in the country's recent history. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
SOUSSE, TUNISIA - JUNE 28: Tourists carry a Tunisian flag along Marhaba beach where 38 people were killed on Friday in a terrorist attack on June 28, 2015 in Souuse, Tunisia. Sousse beaches remain quiet following the Tunisia beach attack which left 38 dead, including at least 15 Britons. Around 1,000 tourists returned to the UK with more set to follow in the coming days. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Tourists mourn at the site of a shooting attack on the beach in front of the Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel in Port el Kantaoui, on the outskirts of Sousse south of the capital Tunis, on June 28, 2015. The Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility on June 27 for the massacre in the seaside resort that killed nearly 40 people, most of them British tourists, in the worst attack in the country's recent history. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
SOUSSE, TUNISIA - JUNE 27: A man and woman place flowers at the beach next to the Imperial Marhaba Hotel where 38 people were killed yesterday in a terrorist attack on June 27, 2015 in Souuse, Tunisia. Habib Essid Prime Minister of Tunisia announced a clampdown on security after the attack on a holiday resort. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Tourists take part in a gathering in solidarity with Tunisia's tourism industry, on June 29, 2015 on the island of Djerba, following a deadly gun attack at a holiday resort near Sousse. Tunisia said it had made its first arrests after a beach massacre on June 26 that killed 38 people, as European officials paid tribute to victims of the country's worst jihadist attack. AFP PHOTO / FETHI NASRI (Photo credit should read FETHI NASRI/AFP/Getty Images)
British Home Secretary Theresa May (2nd L), Tunisian Interior Minister Mohamed Najem Gharsalli (C), German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere (2nd R) and French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve (R) give a press conference in the Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel in Port el Kantaoui, on the outskirts of Sousse south of the capital Tunis, on June 29, 2015. Britain's Home Secretary Theresa May vowed that 'the terrorists will not win' after paying tribute in Tunisia to the 38 people, mainly Britons, killed by a jihadist gunman. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
(L to R bottom) French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, Tunisian Interior minister Mohamed Najem Gharsalli and British Home Secretary Theresa May lay flowers on the site of a shooting attack on the beach in front of the Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel in Port el Kantaoui, on the outskirts of Sousse south of the capital Tunis, on June 29, 2015. The Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility on June 27 for the massacre in the seaside resort that killed nearly 40 people, most of them British tourists, in the worst attack in the country's recent history. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
WALSALL, ENGLAND - JUNE 29: Flowers and football tributes are laid outside Walsall Football Club in memory of, Adrian Evans, Patrick Evans and Joel Richards who were among 38 people who killed in a terrorist attack in Sousse, Tunisia on June 29, 2015 in Walsall, England. Owen Richards, aged 16, was injured in the attack but witnessed his brother Joel, 19, uncle Adrian, 49, and grandad Patrick Evans, 79, being killed by the gunman. A total of 38 people, the majority of them British, were killed by a gunmen in an attack on a beach in the Tunisian resort of Sousse. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
A British resident of Sousse, who refused to be identified, reacts during a gathering at the scene of the attack in Sousse, Tunisia, Sunday, June 28, 2015. The Friday attack on tourists at a beach is expected to be a huge blow to Tunisia's tourism sector, which made up nearly 15 percent of the country's gross domestic product in 2014. (AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar)
A women holds candle during a protest against terrorism in Sousse, Tunisia, Saturday, June 27, 2015. The morning after a lone gunman killed at tens of people at a beach resort in Tunisia, busloads of tourists are heading to the nearby Enfidha-Hammamet airport hoping to return to their home countries. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
An unidentified tourist reacts as she passes next to the scene of Friday's shooting attack in the coastal town of Sousse, Tunisia, Sunday, June 28, 2015. The Friday attack on tourists at a beach is expected to be a huge blow to Tunisia's tourism sector, which made up nearly 15 percent of the country's gross domestic product in 2014. (AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar)
Flowers are laid at the scene of Friday's shooting attack in the coastal town of Sousse, Tunisia, Saturday, June 27, 2015. Tunisia's prime minister announced on Saturday a string of new security measures including closing renegade mosques and calling up army reservists as thousands of tourists fled the North African country in wake of its worst terrorist attack ever. Tourists crowded into the airport at Hammamet near the coastal city of Sousse where a young man dressed in shorts on Friday pulled an assault rifle and grenades out of his beach umbrella and killed 38 people, mostly tourists. (AP Photo/Leila Khemissi)
Flowers at the scene of the shooting in Sousse, Tunisia, Saturday, June 27, 2015. The morning after a lone gunman killed tens of people at a beach resort in Tunisia, busloads of tourists are heading to the nearby Enfidha-Hammamet airport hoping to return to their home countries. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
A candle and a note in German reading, "Mourning cannot be seen, not heard, can only be felt. It is a fog without contour. One would like to grasp this fog and pull it away. But the hand grabs into emptiness", at the scene of Friday's shooting attack in Sousse, Tunisia, Saturday, June 27, 2015. The morning after a lone gunman killed dozens of people at a beach resort in Tunisia, busloads of tourists are heading to the nearby Enfidha-Hammamet airport hoping to return to their home countries. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
A British family, who witnessed the beach massacre by a jihadists gunman the previous week, lay flowers at the site of the attack on the beach in front of the Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel in Port el Kantaoui, on the outskirts of Sousse south of the capital Tunis, on June 30, 2015. Tunisia's President Beji Caid Essebsi has admitted security services were not prepared for the beach attack, as authorities warned the country is likely to lose more than half-a-billion dollars in tourism revenues. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
A British family, who witnessed the beach massacre by a jihadists gunman the previous week, mourn as they lay flowers at the site of the attack on the beach in front of the Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel in Port el Kantaoui, on the outskirts of Sousse south of the capital Tunis, on June 30, 2015. Tunisia's President Beji Caid Essebsi has admitted security services were not prepared for the beach attack, as authorities warned the country is likely to lose more than half-a-billion dollars in tourism revenues. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
WALSALL, ENGLAND - JUNE 29: Flowers and football tributes are laid outside Walsall Football Club in memory of, Adrian Evans, Patrick Evans and Joel Richards who were among 38 people who killed in a terrorist attack in Sousse, Tunisia on June 29, 2015 in Walsall, England. Owen Richards, aged 16, was injured in the attack but witnessed his brother Joel, 19, uncle Adrian, 49, and grandad Patrick Evans, 79, being killed by the gunman. A total of 38 people, the majority of them British, were killed by a gunman in an attack on a beach in the Tunisian resort of Sousse. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Flower bouquets are seen at the site of a shooting attack on the beach in front of the Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel in Port el Kantaoui, on the outskirts of Sousse south of the capital Tunis, on June 29, 2015. Tunisia said it had made its first arrests after a beach massacre that killed 38 people, as European officials paid tribute to victims of the country's worst jihadist attack. AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
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"It is not a perfect system - it is true we were surprised by this affair," he told France's Europe 1 radio. "They took measures for the month of Ramadan but they never thought the attack would be on the beaches against tourists and the system of protection was set to start July 1."

Armed tourist police are to be stationed at hotels and army reservists called up in a bid to staunch damage to the vital tourism industry - a lifeline for the Sousse region.

At least 25 of the victims were British in the approximately half-hour rampage from the beach through the hotel, according to the latest figures from Tunisia's Ministry of Health. The ministry said 33 of the 38 victims have now been identified, also including 3 Irish, 2 Germans, a Belgian, a Portuguese and a Russian.

The fury of the attack was evident days later. A trail of blood from escaping tourists ran along the sidewalk to the gate of a hotel down the road. The caked pool of blood where the attacker was gunned down near a bend in the road was intact and the white walls lining the street were pocked with bullets.

Friday's attack was not the first in a hotel in Sousse. Two years ago, a gunman with a suicide belt strapped around him assaulted a beach hotel in the downtown area, but killed only himself.

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Rosa reported from Kairouan. Elaine Ganley contributed to this story from Paris. Paul Schemm contributed from Rabat, Morocco

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