Country Reports on Terrorism 2011 - Tunisia
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||31 July 2012|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, Country Reports on Terrorism 2011 - Tunisia, 31 July 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/501fbc9b21.html [accessed 18 May 2013]|
Overview: The principal focus of Tunisian government counterterrorism efforts was on securing its territory, especially in light of the armed conflict in neighboring Libya and the potential for infiltration of extremists based in Algeria. Since the fall of the Qadhafi regime in September, the transitional Libyan government has struggled to impose order on its side of the Tunisian border. Competing militia elements – some of which engaged in banditry – vied for control of border posts and on several occasions exchanged fire with Tunisian security forces. A flow of small arms from Libya into Tunisia in autumn 2011 raised particular concern. In addition, there were numerous arrests by Tunisian security forces of Libyans who possessed guns and ammunition apparently intended for sale inside Tunisia. Such instability along the border prompted the Tunisian government to close it to entry from Libya on November 30, pending an assertion of authority by the Libyan Transitional National Council. Tunisia reopened the border on December 22.
Along with the reemergence after the Tunisian revolution of moderate Islamist groups, hard-line Salafist groups, although numerically small, have made their presence felt with aggressive demonstrations. Some of the demonstrations included violent incidents, such as the fire-bombing of the home of the owner of a TV station in retaliation for the station's broadcast of an allegedly blasphemous film and the storming of a progressive café and theater in downtown Tunis.
On January 31, arsonists attacked a Jewish burial and pilgrimage site in southern Tunisia, which was widely reported in the press as an attack on a synagogue. The Tunisian government and Jewish community leaders condemned the attacks against Tunisia's Jewish community. Tunisian President Marzouki has reached out to the Christian and Jewish communities.
Legislation and Law Enforcement: The January revolution that toppled the Ben Ali regime precipitated unprecedented challenges for Tunisia's security forces. In the immediate aftermath of the revolution, Tunisia's police and National Guard, viewed by the public as compromised by their role as enforcers for Ben Ali, came under acute strain. In rural areas and in city centers, Tunisia's military stepped in to back up the police and the National Guard, and to fill the security void left by Ben Ali's departure. New demands on the security forces drew resources away from the established border-protection regime. The escalation of the conflict in Libya, and the inflow of significant numbers of Libyans and third-country nationals seeking shelter in Tunisia, further augmented demands on security forces across Tunisia.
Tunisia restarted its participation in the Department of State's Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program in June 2011; it had last participated in the ATA program in 2005. ATA training and equipment grants for Tunisia were tailored to meet objectives and needs specific to Tunisia amid the country's evolving political landscape.
Security on Tunisia's western border with Algeria was degraded, and several violent incidents apparently involving Algerians linked to al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) occurred in Tunisia. On the eastern border, armed Libyan rebels fighting the Qadhafi regime frequently moved across the frontier and were occasionally pursued into Tunisia by pro-Qadhafi forces.
Human rights groups assessed that terrorism trials under the previous regime relied on excessive pretrial detainment, denial of due process, and weak evidence. Thousands of prisoners, some convicted of terrorism charges, benefitted from a government amnesty intended for political prisoners in the first half of the year. Senior members of the Ben Ali regime, including the former interior minister and chief of presidential security, were detained and awaiting trial on various charges.
On May 11, a Libyan man was arrested in southern Tunisia while transporting Kalashnikov ammunition; another man of Algerian origin was arrested for transporting hand grenades. Both were traveling away from Libya.
On May 14, two men of Libyan and Algerian origin, carrying Afghan identity papers and suspected of being members of AQIM, were arrested in the southeastern town of Nekrif, while transporting explosive belts and bombs.
On August 22, Tunisian authorities arrested Libyan Army officer Abdul Razik Alrajhi, who described how the Qadhafi regime had provided him explosives with instructions to attack the Embassy of Qatar in Tunis.
On September 21, the Tunisian army clashed with armed militants driving 4x4 vehicles, possibly AQIM members, in a desert area 300 miles southwest of Tunis, near Algeria. The Tunisian army destroyed seven of the vehicles and stopped the remaining two.
On October 28, a Libyan national departing Tunis for Tripoli was arrested at the Tunis-Carthage airport after an inspection revealed ammunition in his luggage. The airport subsequently heightened screening procedures.
On October 31, a Libyan national in possession of an explosive device was arrested in Hammamet.
On November 29, six men of Libyan origin were arrested in Djerba and found in possession of rocket propelled grenades.
Countering Terrorist Finance: Tunisia is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. Tunisia's interagency Financial Intelligence Unit, the Tunisian Financial Analysis Commission (CTAF), is headed by the governor of the Central Bank and includes representation from the Ministry of Finance, Customs General Directorate, National Post Office, Council of Financial Markets, Insurance General Committee, Ministry of Interior, and "an expert specialized in the fight against financial infringements." These interagency representatives are not analysts, and CTAF suffered from a general shortage of analytical staff as well as a lack of training for staff already in place.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, we refer you to the 2011 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Regional and International Cooperation: In December, Tunisia participated in a Maghreb-European defense meeting of the "5 plus 5" group that focused on AQIM activities, including weapons-smuggling activities from the recent conflict in Libya and AQIM's abduction of European hostages in the Sahel region of the Sahara.