1 November 2012

Tunisia: Nation Takes Action Against Salafists

Tunis — A salafist preacher is heading to prison for inciting the attack on the US Embassy in Tunis.

Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki on Wednesday (October 31st) extended the state of emergency by three months in the wake of salafist attacks on security forces.

Dozens of armed Islamists attacked two National Guard outposts in Manouba on Tuesday, injuring several officers. One salafist was killed in the clash. Security was boosted in the capital following the events, according to the interior ministry spokesperson.

The incidents in Manouba were just the latest in a string of attacks by radicals, including the September 14th assault on the US Embassy in Tunis.

A Tunis court last week sentenced a leading salafist to one year in prison for inciting the violence at the embassy. Slim Guetari, better known as Abou Ayoub, is the second in command of Tunisia's Ansar al-Sharia movement. The group's leader, Seif Allah Ben Hassine (aka Abou Iyadh), is still wanted in connection to the attack.

The Abou Ayoub trial was the first related to the September 14th attack on the US Embassy in Tunis. Four demonstrators were killed and dozens injured when salafists laid siege to the embassy.

Tunisian authorities have arrested 87 people suspected of involvement. Salafist leaders claim the number of detainees to be 800.

In a recent video posted online, Abou Iyadh accused Tunisia's democratically elected government of being a puppet of the United States. He also labelled the Ennahda-led government un-Islamic.

Abou Iyadh once fought in Afghanistan with the Taliban. He was arrested in Turkey in 2003 and extradited to Tunisia, where he was sentenced to a 68-year term on terror charges. He was later released in the wake of the Tunisian revolution.

Rached Mahjoub, President of the Tunisian Association for Citizen Police, told AFP that he noticed an increased willingness on the part of authorities to confront salafist jihadists in the wake of the embassy attack.

"The trend has changed since September 14th. Civil society and politicians are more attuned to the police," he said.

For his part, political activist Adel al-Haj Salem told Magharebia that "there should be a full and thorough investigation of the events of the US Embassy, and all those who have incited people in the mosques, the media and social networking sites should be held accountable."

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