4 thoughts on “IS from Libya again attack Tunisia”

  1. A further nuance to this debate is the extent to which the ISIS label is being utilised to disguise/enhance the profile of local armed groups seeking validation and/or external support through association with ISIS. The numbers of Tunisians leaving to join ISIS in Syria/Iraq is secondary to this. The initial reporting in the New York Times of 7th March also hinted at another dynamic, as follows (my highlighting):

    ‘It was unclear where the assailants had come from, although some witnesses reported that they had local accents and had pronounced themselves as liberators. But President Beji Caid Essebsi of Tunisia, increasingly alarmed about the Islamic State’s expansion in Libya, blamed the militant group. In a televised address, he suggested that the motive was to create a new Islamic State territory on Tunisian soil, similar to the 150-mile stretch it controls in Libya.’

    The piece in question did not elaborate on the ‘liberators’ line, but it is clear that official invocations of the region-wide ‘ISIS threat’ suit a number of purposes – at a time when Tunisia needs to sustain international support to police its southern borders and the increasingly disenchanted and restive populations of southern and western Tunisia. Today’s New York Times only mentions ‘extremist gunmen’ and ‘fighters’ in the aftermath, and that ‘(n)o group immediately claimed responsibility for the violence in a region near lawless Libya where the Islamic State group has a growing presence’. None has done so to date, to my knowledge.

  2. While there is little sectarian difference in Tunisia, there is a major faultline between the (relatively) prosperous coast / North (Sahel) and the deprived (and so aggrieved) areas of the interior / South. (There is also an ethnic tinge to this divide, with more Berbers living in the South / interior.) Part of IS’s IO campaign is to be ‘just’, which would play to the sense of grievance that many of the citizens of these areas feel. In an area where about half the livelihoods come from smuggling and other black-market activity, the strengthening of border controls without parallel job creation is likely to have increased ill-will towards the government.

    The 03 Mar 16 IS operation which was bumped looks, in retrospect, like a reconnaissance for the main attack on 07 Mar 16. Judging by the additional heavy weapons brought, it learnt that the security forces were more powerful than IS had hoped. (And IS learnt on 07 Mar 16 that the Security Forces were even stronger!)

    While Ben Guerdane may have been attacked, it is likely that the target was the border itself / the forces that secure it: IS seeks to sweep post-(western)colonial borders off the map, and to (re-)establish Islamic regions. They took great delight in demolishing the border posts between Iraq and Syria, declaring an end to Sykes-Picot. (Indeed, the very establishment of the berm and technical assets may have driven the attack here.)

    In terms of numbers of Tunisians fighting with IS, while 3,000 was the figure used, a recent report suggests that the number is now 6,000.

    1. What is the source of these numbers which jump from 3000 to 6000?
      We must be more careful or source our “estimates” much more precisely.
      When we say the Tunisians are the “most numerous” foreign fighters with Isis, then the next day somebody says that it is the Libyans. This is very careless and such dis-or misinformation only confuses further an already very entangled situation.

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