BEIRUT

Middle East

Tunisia putting squeeze on extremism following attacks

Tunisian protesters, one flashing the sign of victory, shout slogans during a demonstration against terrorism on July 18, 2014 in the capital Tunis, following an attack in the Mount Chaambi region. AFP PHOTO / FETHI BELAID

TUNIS: Tunisia’s prime minister has announced a crackdown on networks recruiting people to fight jihad abroad and on imams who incite violence, after 15 soldiers were killed in one of this country’s deadliest attacks in recent years.

An extremist group believed linked to Al-Qaeda’s North Africa arm claimed responsibility for the attacks on two army posts on Mount Chaambi Wednesday night during a Ramadan feast.

Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa said in a televised address Thursday that the attacks were aimed at discrediting “open and tolerant Tunisia” and derailing its transition to democracy. Tunisia overthrew former autocrat Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 and unleashed the Arab Spring uprisings.

Jomaa said authorities would strengthen borders controls and measures against networks that have recruited large numbers of Tunisians to fight in Syria and Iraq.

The body of a soldier missing after Wednesday’s attack was found Friday, the government said.

“During a sweep carried out by the army in the military zone on Mount Chaambi, the soldier Walid Ben Abdallah was found dead of wounds that he sustained during the terrorist attack,” a source at the Defense Ministry told AFP.

The ministry said the soldier “bravely defended the post that he was manning” and “died a martyr fighting for his country.”

The government said the militants’ aim was to disrupt the upcoming parliamentary and presidential polls, and vowed not to let the attack go unpunished.

Nearly four years after the revolution that toppled Ben Ali, Tunisians will be called to vote in the legislative election on Oct. 26, with the first round of the presidential vote due a month later.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 19, 2014, on page 9.

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Summary

Tunisia's prime minister has announced a crackdown on networks recruiting people to fight jihad abroad and on imams who incite violence, after 15 soldiers were killed in one of this country's deadliest attacks in recent years.

Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa said in a televised address Thursday that the attacks were aimed at discrediting "open and tolerant Tunisia" and derailing its transition to democracy.

The body of a soldier missing after Wednesday's attack was found Friday, the government said.


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