Magharebia (Washington DC)

12 June 2014

Tunisian Army to Help Fight Terrorism in Cities

Tunis — Tunisian Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou on Friday (June 6th) called for allowing the army to work with security forces inside cities to eliminate terrorism.

"Specialised teams from the army, security and guards must be formed in every province to quickly and effectively track down terrorists," Ben Jeddou said in a press statement.

"The law must be amended so the army can repel terrorism inside villages and cities because the Ministry of Defence has sophisticated capabilities," he added. "All world countries combat terrorism using army forces and not policemen alone."

Tunisia has witnessed a wave of terrorism in the last two years led in part by Ansar al-Sharia. The extremist group's leader, Abou Iyadh (real name Saif Allah bin Hussein), is reportedly in Libya.

Retired Brigadier General Moktar Ben Nasr explained that while there was no law preventing the army from entering cities, it does not run regular patrols, raid houses or conduct other operations like the police.

"What the interior minister meant is to add a paragraph to the new anti-terrorism law requiring the army to intervene against terrorist operations at the request of the interior ministry so we can have a binding law for the army to intervene and assist the interior ministry with helicopters or special intervention units," the general told Magharebia.

The general added: "We see this in all world countries. For example, at big airports in various world countries, we notice that the surveillance and protection teams consist of police and army personnel to repel terrorism and other major crimes, such as smuggling or human trafficking."

Justice Minister Hafedh Ben Salah said on June 3rd that "There must be a comprehensive counter-terrorism approach. The terrorism law is only one of other elements and laws that must be in place so we can deal with all the manifestations of terrorism."

"The draft terrorism law that is under discussion complies with international standards," the minister added. "However, the definition of terrorism under the 2003 law involves much ambiguity because it is a broad definition that allowed the former regime to punish all dissent."

"We're depending on the new constitution to approve a law conforming to constitutional requirements because it features sufficient guarantees allowing that," he explained.

In his turn, Constituent Assembly member Mahmoud Baroudi told Magharebia, "The committees are about to examine the draft anti-terrorism law. The law will include Lotfi Ben Jeddou's suggestion, which allows the army forces to run patrols in cities and villages and chase terrorists like a number of European countries."

Many Tunisian citizens liked the idea.

"I think supporting the security forces with the army is a good idea so counter-terrorism operations can be more effective, especially as research has shown that the terrorists now use war capabilities coming from Libya," said Mohamed Nacer, an employee at a private company.

In her turn, 29-year-old Mufida Khidhr told Magharebia that "This may affect the work of the army, which is guarding the border. However, during the revolution, the army intervened and protected the country."

"I think that the capabilities of the security forces now are weak, unlike the army, and therefore, the alliance of the two forces will create a strong striking force against terrorism," she added.

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