BEIRUT - Terrorists attacked sites in France, Tunisia and Kuwait yesterday, leaving a bloody toll on three continents, prompting fresh concerns about spreading extremist influences.
The deadliest attack was in Tunisia, where gunmen opened fire at a beach in the Mediterranean tourist town of Sousse, killing at least 27 people. Security forces killed at least one attacker.
In Kuwait, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed responsibility for a bomb that ripped through a Shi'ite mosque during Friday prayers, leaving 25 dead.
Attack on US-owned industrial chemical plant near Lyon
- One man beheaded; his head pinned to gate
- Two people injured in apparent attempt to blow up factory
- Two held: a man, a woman said to be his wife
Two gunmen open fire at a beach in the Mediterranean tourist town of Sousse, 150km from Tunis
- At least 27 people killed
- At least 12 people injured
- One attacker killed by security forces
Explosion at Shi'ite mosque in Kuwait City
- At least 25 people killed
- 200 people injured
- Suicide bomber blew himself up
In France, attackers stormed a US-owned industrial chemical plant near Lyon, decapitated one person and tried unsuccessfully to blow up the factory, in what the French authorities said was a terrorist attack.
There was no statement of responsibility for the attacks in Tunisia and France.
British holidaymakers caught up in the attack in Tunisia said tourists ran from the beach when they realised they were under gunfire. "Over to our left, about 100m or so away, we saw what we thought were firecrackers going off," Mr Gary Pine, from Bristol, told Britain's Sky News by telephone. "But you could see quite quickly the panic that was starting to ensue from the next resort along from us."
French President Francois Hollande cut short a European Union summit to chair emergency meetings in Paris following the grisly attack in his country. "The intent was, without doubt, to cause an explosion. It was a terrorist attack," he said, noting that a vehicle driven at high speed by "one person, maybe accompanied by another" smashed into the factory, about 40km from Lyon.
"At the time I am speaking, there is one dead and two injured," said a grim-faced Mr Hollande, calling for "solidarity" for the victim, who was found with Arabic inscriptions on him.
The bloody discovery of the decapitated head pinned to the gate of the factory is thought to be the first instance in France of a beheading during an attack, which has become a trademark of ISIS.
The gruesome killing came nearly six months after the attacks in and around Paris which started with a shooting at satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo that left 17 people dead.
The shooting in Tunisia came just months after an attack on a museum in the capital Tunis killed 21 foreign tourists and a policeman in March.
Mr Hollande and his Tunisian counterpart Beji Caid Essebsi expressed their solidarity against the "scourge" of terrorism.
There was no immediate indication that the attacks were coordinated. But the three strikes on three continents came at roughly the same time, and mere days after ISIS called for such operations during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
While the authorities in each country were investigating, the timing of the attacks raised the possibility that militants from ISIS were increasingly inspiring sympathisers to plan and carry out attacks in their own countries.
"Muslims, embark and hasten towards jihad," said ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani in an audio message released this week. "Oh mujahideen everywhere, rush and go to make Ramadan a month of disasters for the infidels."
US intelligence and counter- terrorism officials were scrambling yesterday to assess the connections, if any, between the attacks in France, Kuwait and Tunisia.
Among EU leaders gathered for the Brussels summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the attacks "show the challenges we face when it comes to fighting terrorism and Islamist extremism".
British Prime Minister David Cameron called a meeting of a government emergency committee to discuss the attacks. "Our hearts all go out to the victims of these appalling terrorist attacks," Mr Cameron said, branding them the fruit of "perverted ideology".
The wave of violence underscores the spread of extremism a year after ISIS declared a caliphate in areas under its control in Iraq and Syria on June 29 last year.
The Al-Qaeda breakaway group has lured thousands of fighters from the Middle East and Europe. A number of radical Sunni groups from Egypt to Tunisia to Yemen have pledged allegiance to ISIS.
"You should expect more of these attacks unfortunately," said Mr Ghanem Nuseibeh, founder of Cornerstone Global Associates, which advises clients on risk in the Middle East.
Most of the attacks over the past year "have been carried out by lone individuals or small groups and that's the difficulty here", he said.
NEW YORK TIMES, BLOOMBERG, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
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