Paris: The two gunmen who stormed Tunisia`s national museum and killed 21 people before being shot dead themselves were carrying "terrible explosives", the country`s president said Thursday, praising security forces for preventing further bloodshed.
"We found terrible explosives on those people that they did not have time" to use, President Beji Caid Essebsi told France`s TF1 television, adding that the police response had prevented "a catastrophe".
The Islamic State jihadist group has claimed responsibility for Wednesday`s brazen attack, which left 20 foreign tourists and one Tunisian dead and has raised fears of a surge in Islamist extremism in the birthplace of the Arab Spring.
As international outrage grew over Tunisia`s worst post-revolution attack, Essebsi said his country would not be cowed by extremism.
"The process of implementing a democratic system is underway, well anchored," he said. "We will never move backwards."
Tunisia kicked off the Arab Spring and has taken pride in forming a democratic government and achieving stability -- in marked contrast to neighbours such as Egypt and Libya.
The museum attack has dealt a heavy blow to Tunisia`s crucial tourism industry and Essebsi urged foreign visitors not to stay away.
"They can come in absolute safety," he said, adding that it would be a show of solidarity with Tunisians. He said it would also "send a message to the terrorists" that people will not give into fear.