Tonight it was reported by Express FM that Shaykh al-Khatib al-Idrisi was arrested in Sidi Ali Ben Aoun (in the governorate of Sidi Bouzid), where there has been recent violence in the past couple of days. On Wednesday afternoon after an exchange of fire occurred between militants and national guardsmen, six national guard officers were killed and four were wounded. Contrary to the article from Express FM, al-Idrisi is not the founder of Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia (AST). In fact, he’s not even a member of the group at all. He is though one of, if not the most well-respected Salafi clerics within Tunisia as well as North Africa writ-large. More importantly, though, he is also viewed as a key unaffiliated spiritual guide for members of AST. His arrest will likely further galvanize those in AST and harden their belief that the state is at war with Islam and will never allow them to practice it as they see fit. It also could push AST away from its dawa-first approach and move into a more terrorism-first approach (something that Daveed Gartenstein-Ross has been hypothesizing would eventually happen), which would make it more like a classical jihadi organization.
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