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Tourists run from the gunfire

Tourists run from the gunfire

AFP/Getty Images

Tourists run from the gunfire

It is just the sort of neighbourhood that Tunisia's revolution was meant to help.

Douar Hicher's concrete flats are filled with young men and women who drove the uprising that kicked off the Arab Spring of 2011, hoping to usher in a new era of opportunity.

But something has gone wrong. These few square miles of dusty sprawl in the capital, Tunis, have not welcomed the western- style freedom that many thought the Tunisian revolution was supposed to usher in.

Instead, it has become notorious for another sort of revolution: at least 50 of its young men are now fighting with the jihadists in Syria and Iraq.

"Jihad is an Islamic obligation," says Abdelmoneim (30) as he wanders through the backstreets. "If it was organised for me, I'd go." Several of Abdelmoneim's friends travelled to fight in Syria last year.

"Seeing their photos on Facebook, I cannot blame them," he says. "Life is good there."

Nestled in Africa's northern crest, Tunisia is often hailed as a lone Arab Spring success story.

As much of the region was wracked by fighting, a week ago Tunisians went to the polls for the second free parliamentary vote since the fall of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.

But the country also stands out for another reason - it is now the largest source of foreign fighters joining the Islamic State (Isil) and other extremist groups in Syria and Iraq.

By some estimates, the number could be as high as 3,000.

In March, a fighter from Isil named as Abu Anas al Tunisi carried out a suicide attack on an Iraqi government complex, disguised in military uniform.

Photos on Isil-linked social media accounts show groups of hoodie-clad Tunisians, smiling and clutching their guns.

Radicalised Tunisians have also been found with jihadist groups in Algeria, Iraq, Libya and Mali. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent