Tunisian Islamists Receiving Weapons from Libya

Article Summary
A Tunisian security analyst and the Tunisian Interior Minister have corroborated reports that weapons are entering Tunisia through the border with Libya, and that there have been gun battles between these groups and the army. They attribute these operations to Islamic Jihadists who seek to establish an Islamic emirate in Tunisia. Mustafa Dalaa reports.

Yesterday [February 14, 2011], Tunisian political and security analyst Al-Hashemi Mira warned against the menace posed by weapons smuggling through official border crossing points between Tunisia and Libya. [He attributes this smuggling] to Tunisian groups linked to al-Qaeda. He also confirmed the presence of armed organizations in Libya that are smuggling weapons into Tunisia in an attempt to foment rebellion among the Tunisian Salafist Jihadists, which want to establish an Islamic emirate in Tunisia.

In a telephone interview, Mira said that the Minister of the Interior Ali Larayedh confirmed [these claims]. Larayedh added that the widespread arms proliferation in Libya poses a great threat to North Africa and its coastline. However, he confirmed that the Tunisian border with Algeria is secure.

Furthermore, Mira added that the aforementioned armed group had been previously dismantled, and that three of the militants were arrested three years ago in the Sulaiman military operation - a joint operation between the Security forces and the National Guard. In the same vein, clashes have erupted in the Cap Bon region - the location in which the jihadist group used to train - resulting in the arrest and prosecution of some the group's members. [The jihadists] were prosecuted within the framework of the anti-terrorism law.

The members of the Jihadist group were released following the [Tunisian] Revolution of January 14 [2011] that toppled [former Tunisian President] Ben Ali, in an attempt to embark on a new chapter of peace and cooperation with Tunisian society. The jihadist group, however, did not respond by dropping its goal to establish an Islamic emirate in Tunisia, said the analyst.

Mira added that this jihadist armed group is likely to have links to members of al-Qaeda in Libya and the Islamic Maghreb. However, he confirmed that the Tunisian border with Algeria is secure. Mira also pointed out that some jihadists have tried to impose their ideology on the people in certain areas across Tunisia, but that these efforts were rejected. "People are standing up to extremism in Tunisia," added Mira.

Moreover, [Mira] added that 12 armed members of the group were arrested - while  9 others fled the scene - following clashes with the Tunisian army near Bir Ali, west of Sfax city. [Two jihadist group members] were killed.

Tunisian Minister of Interior Ali Larayedh announced on February 13 that 12 suspects under the age of 30 were arrested, and that nine were still on the run. Eight members are likely to have fled to Libya, while the other individual is said to have gone to Algeria. "Security forces seized 25 Kalashnikov rifles and 2,500 bullets. “[These individuals] had the intention to establish an Islamic state. Some of the group members trained in Libya during the Libyan revolution," said the minister of interior. "The weapons were likely smuggled across the Libyan border," added the minister.

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Found in: salafist, libya, larayedh, jihadists, islamic emirate in tunisia, arms smuggling, arms, al-qaeda
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