Friday 20 April 2018

Tunisia ramps up security in face of further terror attacks

Tunisian National guard members patrol at the beach in Sousse, Tunisia
Tunisian National guard members patrol at the beach in Sousse, Tunisia

Richard Culvert in Sousse

POLICE in Tunisia believe a series of terrorist plots aimed at maximising death tolls to ruin the country's economy are being hatched.

Prime Minister Habib Essid, addressing parliament, said the concerns justify severe new curbs introduced under an emergency declared after a second deadly attack on tourists in three months.

Mr Essid implied that personal freedoms guaranteed by the constitution should not be affected by the "exceptional measures".

The state of emergency was declared on Saturday, days after the July 26 attack on a hotel in Sousse that killed 38 tourists. That came three months after the attack on a museum near Tunis that killed 22.

Mr Essid said authorities believe Tunisia faces "terrorist plots with the objective of creating instability ... and operations aimed at killing as many people as possible and destroying ... the economy".

The country has announced plans to build a wall along its border with Libya to counter the threat from jihadist militants.

It would stretch 160km inland from the coast, and be completed by the end of 2015, Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid told state TV.

The gunman who killed 38 people in an attack on a beach resort is believed to have received training in Libya. The Tunisian army would build the wall, which would have surveillance centres at certain points along it, Mr Essid said.

Authorities had already tightened security following the Sousse attack, in which 30 Britons were killed, deploying more than 1,400 armed officers at hotels and beaches.

Last week, Mr Essid told the BBC that the gunman, Seifeddine Rezgui, had probably trained with the Ansar al-Sharia group in Libya, though Islamic State (Isil) earlier said it was behind the attack.

Eight people have been arrested on suspicion of collaborating with Rezgui and the government says it has uncovered the network behind the Sousse attack.

In the coming weeks, officials are expected to pass a counter-terrorism bill that has been in parliament since early 2014.

The Sousse attack represented the second blow in three months to Tunisia's tourism industry, an important sector for the country.

In March, two gunmen killed 22 people at the renowned Bardo Museum in Tunisia's capital, Tunis.


The country's government has urged its citizens to sacrifice some of their freedoms to better protect the country from attacks like the mass shooting at the beach resort.

Government minister Kamel Jendoubi on Tuesday defended the president's decision to impose a state of emergency in response to the June 26 attack, fearing a new wave of extremist violence.

As Tunisia's Parliament resumes debate on an anti-terrorism law, Jendoubi told reporters "we must accept . . . that some limits must exist to face these threats."

Rights groups have said some measures in the new law - such as long detention periods and a broad definition of terrorism - could threaten the freedoms gained in Tunisia's Arab Spring uprising and its ensuing transition to democracy.

Irish Independent

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