Since the political changes in 2011, there was in Tunisia to an increase of attacks and clashes between security forces and suspected terrorists.
While security forces were initially the main target of the attacks, attacks on civilians have also occurred since 2015. Various groups are active in Tunisia: Ansar al Sharia and the Okba Ibn Nafaa Brigade are close to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQMI). The Islamic State (IS) has also been active in Tunisia since 2015. Tunisians make up the largest group of foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq. According to a UN report, large sums of money are to be used for recruiting.
Since 2011, several dozen security guards have been killed by anti-personnel mines and targeted attacks. In addition, the country is increasingly becoming the region’s arms hub, as the army is apparently unable to secure the long land borders in the south with Libya and Algeria. Weapons depots are discovered again and again. In addition to being smuggled to Algeria and Mali, the weapons are also used in Tunisia. In addition, more and more young Tunisians are going to Syria and Iraq to join the Islamists of Al Qaeda or ISto fight. In Syria alone, more than 3,000 Tunisians are said to be fighting. The scenario that these radicalized fighters will eventually return to Tunisia worries not only the security forces. At the end of August 2013, the Tunisian government declared the Salafist organization Ansar AlShariya a terrorist organization close to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
More than a dozen security guards were killed in the fighting over Mount Chaambi on the Algerian border. The Tunisian government also blames the Ansar Al Sharia group for the murder of opposition politicians Chokri Belaid (February 6, 2013) and Mohamed Brahmi (July 25, 2013). Arms smuggling from Libya and Algeria has increased since the revolution, with arrests and sometimes violent clashes between smugglers and security forces. In the meantime, radical groups can also be found in other regions such as in the south or in the Siliana in the north-east of the country.
On March 18, 2015, there was an attack on civilian targets for the first time in more than ten years. In the Bardo Museum in Tunis, more than 20 tourists and a Tunisian police officer were killed when suspected jihadists opened fire on visitors. The attackers were Tunisians who were trained in the use of weapons in training camps in Libya. Suspected backers were arrested a few days after the attack, and a further nine jihadists shot dead by a special unit of the National Guard ten days after the attack, including the Algerian Lokmane Abou Sakher, the head of the Katibat Ibn Oqba Brigade, a group of radical Islamists who are Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQMI). The Tunisian government had blamed AQMI for the attack, while the Islamic State (IS)had known about it. This raises questions both with regard to possible shifts within the two warring groups Al Qaeda and IS, as well as with regard to the competencies and intentions of the Tunisian government.
According to estatelearning, the IS also claimed responsibility for another attack on June 26, 2015, in which 38 tourists were shot by a terrorist in Sousse. The assassin should together with the Bardo bombers in Libya in handling weapons have been designed so the Tunisian authorities. An attack on a presidential guard bus with twelve dead in November 2015 is also said to be the result of IS. An investigation by a Tunisian NGO into the profiles of those convicted and accused in terrorist proceedings paints a detailed picture of the perpetrators’ backgrounds and résumés.
The interim government under Mehdi Jomaa, like the new governments under Habib Essid and Youssef Chahed, stepped up efforts against terrorist groups, although the Tunisian security forces also suffered heavy losses. The balance falls mixed and causing many Tunisians for concern that this could be used as a pretext to restrict human rights and civil liberties. After the attack on the Bardo Museum, voices in the population and in politics increased, calling for the new anti-terrorism law to be passed quickly. Concrete initiatives for deradicalization extremist adjusted teenager or jihad returnees are only recently in the view of fall of the government. Security-dominated political orientations continue to dominate and are partly supported by foreign governments. In the recent past, the Tunisian security forces’ response to extremists has improved.
However, extremist movements also existed before 2011. For example, perpetrators close to Al Qaeda carried out an attack on the Al Ghriba synagogue on Djerba (April 2002). At the turn of the year 2006/07, Tunisian security forces fought for several days with extremists south of the capital Tunis. These occurrences were usually covered up as far as possible by the government or presented as accidents.