Over the past few years, the influx of Tunisian fighters to Iraq and Syria has rendered Tunisia practically synonymous with a phenomenon that is still not well understood. This new Policy Note by jihadism expert Aaron Y. Zelin seeks to remedy this gap by quantifying the flow of Tunisian fighters, in particular the recruitment push within Tunisia from 2011 to 2013, and exploring the history of their networks in Iraq over the last decade.
This study examines the motives driving Tunisia’s foreign fighters, the roles they have assumed with jihadi groups in Iraq and Syria, the reasons why many have returned to Tunisia from the battlefield, and the dilemma this poses to the Tunisian state in terms of security and human rights. A deeper understanding of Tunisia’s foreign fighter phenomenon will help situate the trajectory of the jihadist movement both inside and outside the country, while suggesting ways to tackle this challenging issue.
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On October 29, a thirty-year-old woman named Mouna Guebla detonated a grenade on Avenue Bourguiba in central Tunis. Although the suicide attack did not kill the targeted police officers, it did injure fifteen security guards and five civilians. Tunisian authorities claim the plot is connected to the Islamic State. No direct link has been uncovered yet, nor has the group claimed involvement, but the government believes two or three facilitators may have helped Guebla prepare for the attack. She was not on a government watch list, though her relatives and neighbors stated that she was radicalized online and had recently spent a week in Ettadhamen, a neighborhood known for jihadist activism and foreign fighter recruitment. In any case, it is the first time a successful jihadist attack has been conducted in Tunisia by a woman.
Yet the incident is not necessarily surprising. Considering the number of Tunisian women who have been involved in jihadist activity at home and more militarized activity abroad since the 2011 revolution, it was only a matter of time.
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Click the following link for a safe PDF copy: al-Qā’idah in the Islamic Maghrib — The Mirage of Elections in Tunisia
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Tunisia’s first-ever municipal elections, scheduled for May 6, are an important milestone in the quest to implement democratic institutions and give locals more agency in making decisions about their needs—two goals that, unsurprisingly, run counter to the vision, interests, and ideology of Salafi-jihadist groups in the region. The Islamic State (IS) has signaled that it hopes to disrupt the vote, focusing official propaganda on Tunisia for the first time since summer 2016.
Over the past two years, the group’s activity in Tunisia has been significantly constrained, but low-profile attacks have continued in the interior governorate of Kasserine. The elections represent a high-stakes opportunity to encourage and empower residents of this forgotten area, so the government would be wise to focus on securing not only higher-profile targets in the capital and coastal regions, but also polling sites in the interior. Such efforts could further legitimize the democratic process, showing skeptical locals that the central authorities are slowly but steadily reaching out to them on governance and other issues.
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Click the following link for a safe PDF copy: Abū al-Ashbāl al-Maghribī — Open Messages- Oh Religious Scholars of Tunisia, Who Is the New Bourguiba?
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