Year after attacks, Daesh threat receding in Tunisia

One year after launching a deadly attack in the eastern town of Ben Guerdane, the threat of Daesh militant group seems to have receded in Tunisia.

Last year, Daesh militants staged deadly attacks on military and security posts in the town near Libyan border, killing 12 soldiers and seven civilians.

Dozens of militants were also killed in ensuing clashes with government troops in the town.

Security experts said the attackers had come from the western Libyan city of Sabratha after a U.S. drone struck their training site there.

Prior to the Ben Guerdane assault, Daesh has claimed responsibility for deadly attacks in Tunisia.

In March of 2015, at least 23 people, mostly foreign tourists, were killed when gunmen attacked the Bardo museum in the capital Tunis.

Daesh militants also launched a deadly attack in the resort town of Sousse, killing 39 foreigners.

The Tunisian army, meanwhile, has launched major security operations against militants holed up in the western Chaambi Mountains near the Algerian border.

“The security situation is now stable in Tunisia,” retired army general Mokhtar Ben Nasser told Anadolu Agency. “Daesh threat has receded in recent months and the security situation is under control.”

He attributed the receding Daesh threat in Tunisia to a recent offensive assaults by Libyan government forces against Daesh militants in the coastal city of Sirte, which have forced the terrorist group to flee to Mali and Niger.

“Daesh strongholds in [Iraqi city of] Mosul and [Syria’s] Raqqa are also under attacks,” he said.

Ben Nasser said that Daesh does not have a popular support in Tunisia. “The strength of the Tunisian army and security forces was bigger than Daesh expectations,” he said.

“Despite the receding Daesh danger, the threat remains there as [Daesh militants] might infiltrate the country anytime,” he warned.

Conflict zones

Security expert Yusri al-Dali believes that Daesh has no presence in Tunisia.

“The organization does not have presence on Tunisian territories,” he said. “However, there are Tunisians who have sworn allegiance to the organization.”

Hundreds of Tunisians are believed to have traveled abroad to join militant groups in conflict zones.

Interior Minister Hedi Majdoub earlier estimated that 800 Tunisians had returned from conflict areas.

He also said that around 2,929 Tunisians were fighting in conflict zones. Foreign estimates, however, put the number at more than 5,500 Tunisians.

In 2016, Tunisian authorities banned around 4,000 people from travelling to conflict areas.

“[Terrorist] groups look for security loopholes to have presence in Tunisia,” researcher Sami Brahim told Anadolu Agency.

“These groups can be uprooted if the authorities have managed to draft a counter-terrorism strategy that tackles security and cultural aspects,” he said.

As for those returning from conflict zones, Brahim believes that their return could help the authorities extract information about the terrorist organization.

“Around 600 fighters are currently being questioned or under house arrest,” he said.

Al-Dali shares a similar belief. “Anyone who is found guilty of killing or bloodshed should be tried and sent to prison,” he said.

Last year, the Tunisian government said it was studying the possibility of building prisons for those returning from conflict zones.


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