The Strategist

Jihadists Extend the Zone of Influence in Tunisia

07/08/2015 - 17:38

ISIS terrorists in Tunisia are competing with al-Qaeda, trying to expand the area of influence. The attacks are one way to agitate supporters of radical Islamists.

VOA News; Scott Bobb reporting from Aleppo, Syria
VOA News; Scott Bobb reporting from Aleppo, Syria
Fear and distress, which Islamic State militants carry with them, are spread increasingly – recently, Northern Africa has been touched too. Shortly after the horrific terrorist attack on the beach of Sousse, which resulted in the Friday, June 26, with death of 39 people, the followers of the Isis took the responsibility for this crime. They announced this in Twitter.
It is hardly possible to prove that Isis representatives were behind the carnage in Sousse, but their own confession shows that now, the country, where "Arab Spring" started, has a full swing competition between jihadist groups. Some of them have already declared war on the Government of Tunisia before the ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi a year ago announced his caliphate in Syria and Iraq. Today, Isis is trying - after Libya - to gain a foothold also in Tunisia.

In the heart of the troubled region of North Africa, Tunisia seemed kind of island of stability for quite a long time. Unlike neighboring Algeria in the 1990s, there was no war broke out between the military and the Islamists. In addition, Tunisia was able to - not like Egypt and Libya - a relatively bloodless cope with the coup caused by "Arab spring". Currently, the state with a population of 11 million people has the progressive constitution – but still, the sunny tourist paradise has a downside. Many regions are neglected and suffer from poverty. Exactly from there originate many of the 3,000 Tunisians who are fighting in Syria and Iraq on the side of Isis.

Despite the large number of militants from Tunisia, Isis still has no special weight in this region. But Isis leaders strive to change the situation. In March, "Islamic State" called "brothers" in Tunisia to swear allegiance to the caliphate, says Aymen Jawad al-Tamimi, a terrorism expert at the American Research Center "Middle East Forum" (MEF). In many states, jihadist groups formally stood under the banner of the terrorist organization Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. According to al-Tamimi, at the beginning of June, one of the groups called "Mujahideen Tunisia" proclaimed ‘Islamic State province’ in Tunisia.

At the same time, the terrorist organization of Osama bin Laden's "Al-Qaeda" is active in Tunisia since 2002. Then it took responsibility for the attack on the island of Djerba, killing 19 tourists. Later, in North Africa, they formed their own branch of the terrorist network called "al-Qaeda" in the Islamic Maghreb. Most likely, "Okba Ibn Nafa" grouping is applied to the same branch of the terrorist network.

It does not matter to expert on North Africa and the former Austrian military attaché Wolfgang Pusztai which of the groups belong to one or another terrorist.
- Various Salafi-jihadist groups linked to each other by a common ideology and a common vision of creating a fundamental Islamic state, - the expert explains. In contrast to the situation in the fragmented Libyan, Tunisian jihadists are well aware that they are unlikely to win the war. They set rather the creation of pockets of resistance as their immediate goal.

First of all, Pusztai says, they try to expand their influence in the area of remote mountain landscape Jebel Shamba, on the border with Algeria. Analysts believe that in the long term, Jihadists try to provoke something like a popular revolt.

They can create all preconditions for it by regularly attacking security forces and tourists. After all, if the tourists stop coming to Tunisia because of the fear of the terrorists, this greatly may exacerbate the already difficult economic situation of the country. And terrorist groups count on this, because the saddest the plight of the people, the fertile the ground for extremist ideas.


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