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State Dept.: Three attacks share ‘common thread of terror’

Dozens are dead after three attacks on three continents. In Tunisia, a gunman opened fire at a hotel. In Kuwait, a suicide bomber attacked one of the capital's largest Shiite mosques. And in France, a man rammed a car into gas canisters at a gas plant, injuring two. According to the State Department, there is no indication the events were tactically coordinated. William Brangham reports.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    We return now to the deadly attacks in North Africa, in the Middle East and in France today.

    William Brangham recounts a bloody day overseas.

  • WILLIAM BRANGHAM:

    Three attacks, three different continents, dozens dead. It was a day filled with terror, from a beach in Tunisia, to a mosque in Kuwait, to a factory in France.

    The killings in the Tunisian resort of Sousse was the country's worst terror toll ever. A gunman disguised as a tourist pulled an assault rifle and opened fire on sunbathers at a beachfront hotel.

  • MAN (through interpreter):

    I came this morning to see my friend at his office. They told me to wait outside, that I wasn't allowed to go in. I went outside and I found gunfire. He kept firing around the beach, then came to the swimming pool.

  • WILLIAM BRANGHAM:

    The dead included Tunisians, Britons, Germans and Belgians. The rampage ended when police killed the gunman. Tunisia has managed a democratic transition since the Arab spring began here several years ago.

    But, today, its president said the attacks were a warning for his nation, one that's exported more extremist fighters to Iraq and Syria than any other country.

  • PRESIDENT BEJI CAID ESSEBSI, Tunisia (through interpreter):

    We have repeatedly said that Tunisia is in a war against terrorism. This war doesn't only concern the police or the army that paid the higher price and was often targeted. Today, we are reminded that the Tunisian people as a whole are involved.

  • WILLIAM BRANGHAM:

    Meanwhile, in Kuwait, a suicide bomber unleashed that country's first domestic terror attack in more than 20 years. It happened at one of the largest Shiite mosques in Kuwait City. Witnesses said worshipers were standing shoulder to shoulder in group prayer when the blast ripped through the mosque.

  • ADNAN MOTWA, Kuwaiti National Assembly (through interpreter):

    I can see that all the Muslims are dying by terrorism. They are not targeting a sect, but all the Arab and Muslim nations. We are not safe anymore, neither in our houses nor in the mosques, and we are calling upon the Islamic countries to fight terrorism.

  • WILLIAM BRANGHAM:

    A branch of the Islamic State claimed responsibility for this attack. And, in Southern France, the target was a U.S.-owned gas plant, less than a hundred miles from the Swiss border. A man with ties to Islamist radicals rammed a car into gas canisters, setting off an explosion that injured two people.

    Investigators later found at the site the severed head of the man's employer, along with a flag with Arabic inscriptions. French President Francois Hollande immediately left a summit in Brussels, returned to Paris and raised the threat level in the region to its highest point.

  • PRESIDENT FRANCOIS HOLLANDE, France (through interpreter):

    We need to make sure that all verifications can be made, all checks can be carried out, in different sites, at stations, at industrial sites. There can be no doubt about the ability of our country to protect itself and be vigilant.

  • WILLIAM BRANGHAM:

    The suspect was taken into custody, along with his wife and two other people.

    In Washington, State Department spokesman John Kirby said there's no indication the day's events were coordinated — quote — "on a tactical level," but he also said this:

  • REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, State Department Spokesman:

    There is a common thread of terrorism throughout them, clearly. And at the very least, regardless of who claims responsibility for them, certainly, at the very least, they're a representation of the continued threat of violent extremism.

  • WILLIAM BRANGHAM:

    The three attacks came just days after Islamic State militants urged followers to stage — quote — "calamities for nonbelievers" during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

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