Tunis — Tunisia is moving quickly to keep the security chaos in Libya from bleeding across the border.
The National Guard commander visited the eastern border region on Thursday (May 22nd) to assess the situation, while military units deployed to form a defensive line near the Libya frontier.
"The deterioration of the situation in Libya will pave the way for the infiltration of terrorists into Tunisian territory, the introduction of weapons and the execution of terrorist attacks." Tunisian defence ministry spokesman Taouik Rahmouni said earlier this week.
"The Tunisian army has taken all necessary measures to counter any potential threats," he said.
The heightened security is already seeing results. Tunisian security forces arrested eight terror suspects from Libya, interior ministry spokesman Mohamed Ali Aroui said on Wednesday.
The group trained in weapons and explosives before heading to Tunisia to commit terrorist acts, Aroui noted.
The incident highlights the threat posed by the Libya security chaos.
"Conflicts in Libya can be transferred to Tunisia," journalist Bacem Sindi agreed, noting that Tunisian militants fighting abroad may now return home due to the Libya situation.
The grave security developments in Libya will also have economic and social consequences in Tunisia. He foresees a decline in foreign investment and tourist bookings as a result of security concerns.
"The displacement of thousands of Libyan families to Tunisia will contribute directly in an increase in the cost of living and in higher real estate, which will damage our already exhausted economy," he noted.
Strengthening the security and military presence at border crossings and ports would also help prevent the smuggling of weapons or suspicious elements, he told Magharebia.
Caution and vigilance are necessary to protect the Tunisian-Libyan border from infiltration by terror cells, former Tunisian brigadier general Mokhtar Ben Nasr agreed.
The Libya security situation concerns all Maghreb countries, he told Magharebia. Ben Nasr called for concerted efforts by all regional powers to address this growing terrorist threat.
In this context, Tunisian Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa on May 15th announced a new security centre that would focus on the fight against terrorism and organised crime.
This comprehensive security pole will co-ordinate the actions of different departments in order to increase efficiency, Jomaa's office said.
Tunisians are also worried about the repercussions of the Libya unrest.
"What we fear the most today is the transmission of the Libyan conflict to the Libyan community here," day labourer Ahmed Mizouri told Magharebia. "Our country is a country of tolerance, safety, and generosity," the 39-year-old said.
"We do not want harm for our Libyan brothers," he added. "We want them to live peacefully among us without creating problems."