TUNIS/ALGIERS - The signal to attack came from the mosque, sending dozens of Islamist fighters storming through the Tunisian town of Ben Guerdan to hit army and police posts in street battles that lit the dawn sky with tracer bullets.
Militants used a megaphone to chant "God is Great," and reassure residents they were Islamic State, there to save the town near the Libyan border from the "tyrant" army. Most were Tunisians themselves, with local accents, and even some familiar faces, officials and witnesses to Monday's attack said.
Hours later, 36 militants were dead, along with 12 soldiers and seven civilians, in an assault authorities described as an attempt by Islamic State to carve out terrain in Tunisia.
Whether Islamic State aimed to hold territory as they have in Iraq, Syria and Libya, or intended only to dent Tunisia's already battered security, is unclear and the group has yet to officially claim the attack.