Magharebia (Washington DC)

Tunisia: Nation Confronts Security Challenges

Tunis — Tunisia could become a launching pad for international jihadists, regional experts warn.

Tunisia is at risk of becoming a hotbed for terrorism, a security conference in Tunis concluded.

Regional crises and the rise in extremism threaten Tunisia's national security, analysts agreed Saturday (January 26th) in the capital.

The recent dismantling of an al-Qaeda cell in Tunisia, which recruited fighters for Mali, shows the sensitive geo-strategic position of the country, political figure Azhar Bali said.

Tunisia has become a vital corridor for terrorist groups, he added. Bali stressed the need to develop a solid security approach that would curtail the ambitions of terrorist groups in the Maghreb and Mali.

The latest statistics show that Tunisia is among the most vulnerable to the spread of terrorist groups, weapons and drugs traffickers, Bali explained.

"I don't know why some young people join terrorist gangs; they kill and get killed, and thus become the first victims of terrorism," he told Magharebia.

Al-Amen Party leader Mohamed Naamoune echoed the same sentiment: "The precarious political and security atmosphere and the deteriorating economic and social conditions in Tunisia after the revolution have made the country a fertile ground more than ever for extremist ideologies that feed terrorism."

"The changes that took place in Libya and the resulting widespread arms proliferation, as well as the activities of extremist groups in Algeria and Mali, must be taken into consideration upon conducting strategic studies and engaging in joint security coordination with neighbouring countries," he added.

Naamoune stressed the need to address the social and economic problems of marginalised youth as a means to prevent them from falling prey to the terrorism.

Tunisians are indeed fighting among armed Islamic groups. Some 11 Tunisians out of 32 militants were involved in Algeria's In Amenas events.

"There are about 500 jihadist Tunisians, mostly affiliated to al-Qaeda, in several areas across the world," Alaya Allani, an expert on Islamist groups, said. "There are several Tunisian fighters affiliated with al-Qaeda in northern Mali."

Security researcher Moncef Kartass added that the precarious economic and social conditions of many Tunisians motivate some to engage in arms smuggling, drug trafficking and hostage-taking.

"Recent developments in North Africa have made it a suitable ground for smuggling and all types of organised crime committed by terrorist groups," he noted. "The Tunisian desert has become one of the most vital corridors for them and an important centre for their activities, whether in terms of smuggling or stockpiling arms."

Political analyst Salaheddine Jourchi commented: "After the revolution, Tunisia became... a country with precarious security that facilitated the work of armed gangs and organised crime gangs," he said.

Participants in the forum stressed the need to reform the security apparatus. They added that all political forces must unify their efforts to enhance peace.

Tunisia needs to work with neighbouring countries to contain the terrorist tide and consolidate the stability of the state, the security experts added.

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