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The body of a tourist shot dead by a gunman lies near a beachside hotel in Sousse, Tunisia. At least 27 people, including foreign tourists, were killed when at least one gunman opened fire on the Tunisian beachside hotel in the popular resort of Sousse on Friday, an interior ministry spokesman said. Police were still clearing the area around the Imperial Marhaba hotel and the body of one gunman lay at the scene with a Kalashnikov assault rifle after he was shot in an exchange of gunfire, a security source at the scene said.Amine Ben Aziza/Reuters

Called to arms by the leadership of the Sunni extremist group known as Islamic State, three lone terrorists struck Friday at sensitive first-time targets in Europe, North Africa and the Persian Gulf. They succeeded in killing more than 60 people – the majority of whom were Westerners – and raised new fears about the growing reach of jihadists.

In Tunisia, a gunman unknown to police pulled a Kalashnikov from inside a beach umbrella and opened fire on sun-worshipping Europeans, killing at least 37, before he was killed by security forces.

It was the deadliest assault on tourists in the Arab World since the 1997 attack at the ancient Egyptian site of Luxor, when terrorists killed 62 people.

In France, a truck driver with suspected ties to Islamist extremists crashed his vehicle into an industrial chemical plant near Lyon, apparently hoping to trigger a large explosion. The decapitated body of the driver's boss was found at the scene, his head on a gate post, reportedly framed by Islamist banners.

While in Kuwait, a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a large Shia Muslim mosque during Friday noon prayers, killing at least 27 and wounded more than 200. The blast, in downtown Kuwait City, was just 30 kilometres from where 600 Canadian troops forces are based, conducting an air campaign against Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria.

The three attackers all struck at roughly the same time, and all appeared to be heeding an Islamic State directive released earlier this week: "Muslims, embark and hasten toward jihad …" said the group's spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani in an audio message. "… rush and go to make Ramadan a month of disasters for the infidels."

The effort to inspire a wave of attacks resulted in "an unprecedented day for terrorism," said Sajjan Gohel, international security director for the Asia-Pacific Foundation. While it is uncertain to what extent the attacks were co-ordinated, it seems clear that each of these attackers bought into "the doctrine that groups like ISIS articulate," Mr. Gohel said, using an acronym for Islamic State.

In each case, it was so-called "infidels" – Westerners and Shia Muslims – who were the targets.

While the attack in France was savage and generally ineffective, killing only one person, the terrorists in Tunisia and Kuwait acted in a well-disciplined, albeit suicidal, fashion and achieved maximum results.

Watch for more of such attacks, Mr. Gohel told CNN on Friday. "Gone are the days of the al-Qaeda large-scale plots," he said. Now we are seeing an increase in the number of smaller scale plots that are harder to guard against and harder to monitor.

The attack in Tunisia came three months after two gunmen stormed the Bardo national museum in Tunis, killing 21 tourists. A group pledging allegiance to Islamic State claimed responsibility for that assault and vowed there would be more.

The powerful Kuwait bombing followed two similar attacks in Saudi Arabia in May. Responsibility for all three bombings was claimed by a group known as Najd Province, an affiliate of Islamic State. The Najd is the rocky area in central Saudi Arabia in which the strict Wahhabi Sunni movement was born.

Islamic State welcomed Friday's deadly attack in Kuwait, calling the martyred bomber "one of the knights of the Sunni people."

With its new attacks in the Shia communities around the Gulf, Islamic State appears to be trying to foment a sectarian conflict that might draw Iran into the fight and destabilize the Saudi Kingdom.

The group is banking on the fact that Saudi Arabia is home to a great many Salafi jihadists who would like to oust the House of Saud and recreate the Islamic caliphate of old.

If Islamic State continues attacking Shiites in the Gulf, it will likely spur them "to look for protection from the outside – namely from Iran, which could quickly provide such support via Hezbollah, Iraqi Shiite militant groups, and/or similar elements in Bahrain," wrote Aaron Zelin, a jihadist specialist at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

"By casting themselves as the true bearers of Islam, IS leaders hope to draw more recruits and supporters," he wrote earlier this month, anticipating a widening of the IS campaign.

Friday's assaults also took place as IS forces were carrying out two other terror attacks inside Syria on Thursday and Friday. Slipping across the border from Turkey, dozens of IS members, disguised as Kurdish fighters, reportedly infiltrated the towns of Kobani and Hasaka from which they had been driven out earlier this year. Once inside, they turned on the civilian populations, killing some 145 people according to reports from Syrian observers, before Kurdish and Syrian forces contained them.

In recent weeks, as IS fighters have lost ground in various parts of Syria and Iraq, they have adopted the tactic of attacking elsewhere – a sort of "whack a mole" strategy, to keep up the fight and maintain morale.

While Kurdish fighters in Syria and Iranian-backed Shia militias in Iraq have both made recent gains at the expense of Islamic State, Friday's IS attacks against such a wide range of targets have made that date – the ninth day of Ramadan – a day that will long be remembered.