June 16, 2014
Mustafa Qubaia criticized the leader of Ansar Ash-Sharia, Abu Ayad Al-Tunisi, for his praise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Ash-Sham, and described the damage that ISIS could do to the region.
Former head of government Ali al-Areed said on Al-Jazeera’s “Today’s Encounter” program that the Tunisian system had not seen a military coup because of the composition of the Tunisian people, the political and social forces, and the method of political practice all differed from those in Egypt. After a broad discussion of the Arab world in general, he expressed support for the current government’s policies, and said that Ennahda is still deciding how to approach the upcoming presidential elections.
After the release of prisoners from Parwan Detention Facility in Afghanistan, 38 inmates remain, including a number of Tunisians.
Worries about the worsening crisis in Libya have led Tunisian forces to strengthen their presence on the Tunisia-Libya border, according to a security source in Medinine. There is a worry that security installations could be targeted by terrorists operating across the border.
Tunisian citizens who were arrested and tortured in Gafsa in 2008 are demanding an investigation into the incident. The crimes against the basic human rights of the citizens were extensive: they were beaten with batons, kicked, burned with cigarettes, and threatened with the rape of loved ones. As there was nothing approaching justice for these crimes under Ben Ali, the citizens are trying their luck in the new system.
June 17, 2014
Four bearded young men were stopped in Nabil yesterday after being spotted in a suspicious-looking car. It turned out that one of the men is wanted in connection with a 2012 murder, and the rest served prison time for terrorism under Ben Ali. All were released in the general amnesty given after 2011. The men are suspected to be part of a terrorist network and have ties to Ansar Ash-Sharia and various charity organizations that could be sponsoring Syrian jihadis.
Security forces raided a group of seven terrorists after being tipped off that the group was running a protection racket on two brothers. The brothers informed the police, who set up an ambush for the group. Two of the terrorists were killed and one injured in the resulting exchange of fire. The injured terrorist was later captured after security forces followed the trail of blood.
Security forces have been engaged with various terrorist elements in and around Mount (Djebel) Selloum since terrorists mounted an attack from the mountain against the home of Interior Minister Lutfi Bin Jedou. This conflict was escalated at dawn yesterday when soldiers from the army and National Guard launched, for the first time, a bombing campaign using aircraft and artillery. The attack was loud enough to wake up residents in nearby Kesserine, and followed what many had thought to be a calming of the situation on the mountain. The large number of insurgents entrenched on Djebel Selloum had led to some parallels being drawn from the previous situation on Djebel Chambi.
According to the official Facebook page of the General Tunisian Labor Union (UGTT), the Interior Ministry has warned that the family of Hussein Al-Abassi has come under the threat of a terrorist attack.
After relative quiet during the past month in Kesserine, government forces initiated for the first time on Djebel Salloume a bombing campaign from both air and ground artillery. Afterward, large units from the Army and National guard swept the area.
Five religious extremists were referred to an investigating judge in the penal court yesterday, after they attacked guards at the house of Sufyan Al-Saleeti, the official spokesman for the penal court in Tunis.
A symposium was held yesterday entitled “Tunisian Prisons: Reality and Prospects.” Representatives of several ministries attended, as did members of civil society, human rights activists, representatives of international organizations, and the German Institute for International Legal Cooperation (IRZ). The symposium discussed both the difficulty and necessity of reforming the prison system, including bringing it into agreement with international law. Kemal Al-Din Benhussein, who oversees the prison portfolio in the Justice Minister’s office, discussed the issue of overcrowding, and its roots in the denying of bail to misdemeanor cases. He asserted that these criminals do not pose any danger to society and there is no reason to hold them while awaiting trial. The courts must treat dangerous felons and smalltime criminals differently, he concluded. He suggested that legislating this distinction may be better than leaving it up to the individual judges.
June 18, 2014
According to Emrhod Consulting, a public opinion and marketing company, 52.4% of Tunisians feel that there is a high risk of terrorism in Tunisia.
Sihem Bensedrine has been elected the head of the Truth and Dignity Commission, with Zahir Makhlouf and Muhammad Bin Saalim as her deputies. The fifteen members of the Commission held the vote at their meeting yesterday. This announcement met with doubts and resentment from many commenters on social media, a number of whom did not think that transitional justice is truly possible, and felt that the power of the head of the Commission has been overstated. These sentiments were echoed by members of civil society.
Security forces that ambushed a terrorist cell in the Jendouba countryside last week were able to set up the ambush after tracking the cell through their gifts to nearby families.
The penal court denied bail for 8 members of the Abee Bakr Al-Sadeeq brigade of Gafsa.
Head of government Mehdi Jomaa issued a statement about the operations on Djebel Chambi and Djebel Selloum. He said they had been accompanied by a wide-ranging sweep of the area.
A security team has been dispatched by the interior ministry to Kasserine to guard the family of Hussein al-Abassi, the general secretary of the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT), after receiving information suggesting an imminent attack on the family.
German Federal Police in Berlin arrested a French citizen of Tunisian origin who was returning from Syria and suspected of terrorist activities.
The Tunisian post office announced that, as a part of its general development and modernization, it would be implementing systems to impede money laundering and the funding of terror.
The military penal court decided last night in Sfax to sentence the former head of the security center in Douz and one of the officers there to 15 years in prison for the killing of two protesters on January 12, 2011.
A Salafi man was denied bail in his trial after being accused of sending young men to Syria.
“Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb: An Imminent Threat” (two page spread)
The danger of terrorism is only growing, especially in the wake of the attack on Interior Minister Lutfi Bin Jedou’s house weeks ago. In the framework of this ongoing campaign, At-Tunisia presents this look at Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and its development, structure, and monetary backing.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb began as the Salafi Group for Preaching and Combat, which was founded in Algeria in 2006. Almost a year later, the group became a member of Al-Qaeda, which was at the time under the leadership of Osama bin Laden. Their general goals were to liberate the countries of the Maghreb from foreign influence (mainly that of France and America), purge the Western-oriented governments of the region, and set up an cross-border Islamic state.
The organization has had several leaders, the most current being Abd al-Malik Droudkel, known by his nom de guerre Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud. AQIM has brought together many different groups, including Muwaqqa’een Biddem, the Tarik Ibn Ziad Brigade, the Mulethemoun Brigade, the Nigerian group Boko Haram, and others in both the Arab Maghreb and the countries of the Sahara. A training program was implemented and tens of militants were trained in combat, guerrilla warfare, and bomb making.
The group then began a series of terrorist attacks that focused on foreign tourists, police, and military targets, the bloodiest of which took place in Algeria. Throughout this period the countries of North Africa, especially Tunisia, Libya, and Algeria, have worked together to try and limit these attacks. Western countries have also contributed logistically and materially. General Carter Ham, Chief of the US Africa Command, announced last year that the United States will give 32 million dinar to Tunisia to fight terrorism.
Tunisia has worked to strengthen the military presence on its 1000 km long border with Algeria, in addition to forming a joint Tunisian-Algerian military intelligence unit. The effects of this cooperation have been seen in recent operations on Djebel Chambi and other mountains of the Northwest governorates.
It is estimated that AQIM has managed to gather about 150 million Euros in the past five years, mainly through kidnapping and the drug trade. Ransoms alone may have garnered extremist groups $120 million USD. Drugs coming from Latin America across the Atlantic tend to go through North Africa on the way to Europe, and the extremist groups also profit off of this smuggling. A kilogram of cocaine can net a $2,000 USD commission, and it is estimated that between 50 and 200 tons of drugs are going through the region each year. Meanwhile, weapons are also travelling through these smuggling routes, providing both profit and armament to extremist groups.
In order to carry out their campaign and achieve their goals, AQIM attempts to sow fear and discord, creating the perfect environment for both kidnapping and recruitment. They also attempt to win over populations of cities, and bring in fighters from Chad, Niger, and Northern Mali. The profitable nature of the organization has immunized it against global economic collapse and regional upheavals like the Arab Spring and the division of Sudan. Indeed, these have only strengthened the various groups that make up Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
Recruits for AQIM come from many different countries, although most of them are Arabs from North Africa. Some others come from European immigrant populations and Saharan and Sub-Saharan Africa. Recruits are mostly found in mosques, and have a combination of religious and monetary motivations, as there can be a commission of up to $3,000 USD. There is also a lot of internet recruitment. Many of these recruits are educated, especially in the fields of engineering, media, and medicine. With promises of money and the defense of Islam, young men, especially from poor neighborhoods, flock to the banner of Al-Qaeda.
Sources say that the current number of Tunisian recruits to Al-Qaeda are between 12,000 and 16,000, which is tens of times larger than it was before the Arab Spring, when Al-Qaeda had no more than 200 Tunisian members. The conflicts in Libya and Syria have served to polarize those who participated in them and attract jihadists from around the world. If not for the efforts of the Tunisian Interior Ministry to prevent 8,000 young men from going to Syria, the number of Tunisians in Al-Qaeda would be over 20,000.
The Aqba Ibn Nafaa Brigade is considered the Tunisian branch of AQIM and has been launching terrorist attacks from Mount Chambi. Recently, though, it has begun to refer to itself as “The Islamic State of the Islamic Maghreb, patterning itself off of the Islamic Sate of Iraq and Ash-Sham.