Magharebia (Washington DC)

Tunisia: Ansar Al-Sharia Changes Tunisia Tactics

Tunis — Tunisians are increasingly worried about the plans of Ansar al-Sharia, especially with the approach of New Year's Eve.

The terrorist organisation could even resort to using women in suicide attacks on December 31st, Tunisian daily Assarih suggested on Thursday (December 5th).

Ansar al-Sharia has been linked to the killing of soldiers in Jebel Chaambi, the assassinations of opposition politicians Chorki Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi, and the attack on the US embassy in Tunisia.

For months, Tunisian security and army units have been hunting Abou Iyadh, the group's leader, but have yet to find him.

The fact that he is still at large adds to the anxiety for Tunisians, who fear he may incite more violence and murder.

"There is no doubt that Abou Iyadh plans to exact revenge on the Tunisian government, which arrested many of his supporters and eliminated many of his terrorist cells," said day labourer Hamid Abdelli, 37.

"It's very likely that he is planning something in co-operation with other jihadist leaders in the region," he added.

Abou Iyadh is described as one of the most dangerous al-Qaeda elements in Tunisia. He has declared his allegiance to the organisation and reportedly has strong ties with the leaders of al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

National security units have recently arrested many young people with pictures and leaflets of Abou Iyadh and Osama Bin Laden in their possession, causing concern for Tunisians about Abou Iyadh's influence.

"I think his supporters play a major role in hiding him and implementing his instructions," said Wahid Abidi, a 28-year-old job seeker.

"The danger of that man lies in his many followers who continue to promote his ideas. Therefore, everyone should be careful and wary of them," he added.

Abou Iyadh's whereabouts remain unclear.

"All security reports received by the interior ministry confirm he has fled to Libya," Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou said in late September.

Housewife Hanen Atroussi said, "If Abou Iyadh is actually in Libya, it means that he has already put his hands on a large quantity of the Libyan arms arsenal there and he's preparing to use them in enforcing the threats he has always made."

"I think that he won't give up as long as he has followers everywhere. He will seize any chance to come back," she noted.

For her part, journalist Fadia Sendesni, 28, said, "This is a man known for his dangerous statements and it has already been proven that he's involved in spilling Tunisians' blood."

"He's responsible for the tragedies of many families who lost their children, especially those who went to fight in Syria," she said. "His continued activities pose a threat to security and are a source of worry for the region's governments and peoples."

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