U.S. Embassy Attack Sparks Fears of Increased Violence in Tunisia
Tunisia is bracing for a new wave of terrorism, following an attack on March 6 outside the American embassy in the capital of Tunis. Two terrorists blew themselves up near a police patrol car outside the embassy on March 6, killing a police officer and injuring four others and a civilian who happened to be passing by the area. The attack left most members of the Tunisian public in a state of fear and sent the authorities in the small North African state scrambling for clues as to what might come next and how to prepare.
Anticipating More Attacks to Come
According to Tunisian authorities the attackers were convicted previously of joining a terrorist organization. This is why the belief inside Tunisian institutions is that the March 6 attack has some sponsors, either inside or outside Tunisia.
Spokesman of the Tunisian judiciary’s Counterterrorism Office Sofiane Selliti said investigators are collecting evidence and hope to know these parties in the coming hours or days.
“This is not a separate event,” Selliti said. “We will get to the parties standing behind it soon.”
The March 6 attack was the third to target police in the Tunisian capital in the past months. In July last year, a police patrol car was attacked on Avenue Habib Bourguiba, the central thoroughfare in Tunis. It left a police officer dead and three civilians injured. A terrorist also blew himself up near a police station in al-Qarjani district a few kilometers away at the same time. Four police officers were wounded in that attack.
Tunisia’s Bloody Recent History
Tunisia has been suffering political and security unrest since the 2011 downfall of the regime of autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. These deteriorating political and security conditions have had their heavy toll on this country’s economy and the living standards of the Tunisian people.
Terrorism reared its ugly head in Tunisia in October 2013 when a terrorist blew himself up in the coastal city of Sousse. The attack did not cause any human casualties, but it portended the evils awaiting Tunisia. In March 2015, two militants broke into Tunisia’s most important museum, Bardo National Museum, and shot and killed 22 people, most of them foreign tourists. Forty-five other people were injured in the attack.
In June 2015, a militant entered a hotel in Sousse and shot and killed 38 foreign vacationers. Thirty-nine other people were injured. In November 2015, a terrorist blew himself up on Boulevard Mohammed V near the center of Tunis and killed 12 presidential guards. In March 2016, a group of militants tried to control the southeastern town of Ben Gardane on the border with neighboring Libya. Two days of fighting between the militants and the Tunisian army and police left dozens of people dead and injured on both sides. In October 2018, a woman blew herself up on Avenue Habib Bourguiba, near a security patrol car. Fifteen people, including civilians, were injured in the attack.
Turmoil Inside and Outside Tunisia
The security situation in Tunisia has been strongly affected by the ongoing unrest in neighboring Libya. Libya has been in war since the downfall of the Muammar Gaddafi regime in 2011.
The transfer of hundreds of Syrian mercenaries to Tripoli by Turkey in recent months also promises to make the security situation in the restive North African state worse and negatively affect neighboring countries.
Hesham al-Sonosi, a member of the Independent High Authority for Audiovisual Communication, the media regulatory authority in Tunisia, lashed out at Turkey for transferring Syrian militants to Libya to prop up the Tripoli-based Government of National accord.
“The Syrians are coming to liberate Libya, instead of fighting to liberate their country,” al-Sonosi said.
He criticized some Tunisian political forces for maintaining relations with Turkey, including the country’s Islamists. Islamists control the Tunisian parliament, but their performance in the legislature has been worrying to Tunisians. A growing number of Tunisian observers see this perform as conducive to a revival of the terrorist threat and the radicalization of the Tunisian people.
A liberal female member of parliament was recently accused by an Islamist colleague of being an enemy of Islam because she opposed amendments to Tunisia’s election law.
“You cannot allow the members of the parliament to accuse people of being enemies of Islam and end up having social peace,” al-Sonosi said. “This extremist discourse must have its effect on radicalizing the people.”