Tunisia seeks to deter ‘Jihad in Syria’ with first arrest warrant
TUNIS - An arrest warrant has been issued against Tunisian Jihadist who returned from Syria, Abu Zayd Al Tounsi, for taking part in a terrorist organization. Al Tounsi fought in Syria for the past eight months.
However, the charge of “taking part in a terrorist organization” fails to hold water, as the Tunisian state have not considered any of the sides engaged in the Syrian conflict as a terrorist organization.
Earlier in March, after returning from Syria, Al Tounsi appeared on the “Attasiaa Massaa” programme on the Tunisian television channel Attounsiya. His statements sparked nationwide controversy, with media reports claiming that he was only one of thousands of Tunisians who had taken part in the Syrian war.
He confessed to having participated in jihad in Syria and killing several people. He also said he would participate in Jihad in Tunisia if such a fatwa would be launched.
Al Tounsi’s appearance on television, in which he spoke of engaging in Jihad as a religious duty, provoked angry reactions over the absence of an official response to the growing phenomenon of jihadist recruitment.
In recent months, several media outlets have revealed stories about Tunisians who fought in Syria.
Scores of Tunisian families have also pleaded on local media for the return of their children from Syria and dismantlement of the recruitment networks.
In most cases, the families, unaware of their children's departure from the country, are often informed of their arrival in Syria by a simple phone call.
Even though President Moncef Marzouki condemned the recruitment of Jihadists, Prime Minister Ali Laarayedh stated that “the authorities have no legal right to stop someone travelling to another country”.
State-owned news agency TAP reported that strict security measures are being taken along the frontier between Libya and Tunisia in order to prevent potential Tunisian Jihadists from passing through the Ras Jedir border crossing to Libya on their way Syria.
Last month, Tunisian prosecutors officially launched an investigation into networks involved in recruiting Islamists to fight in Syria. No details about the scope of the inquiry were released, but observers have noted the involvement of Salafist imams in the promotion of foreign jihad.
More than 100 Tunisian jihadists have reportedly been killed in the revolt against the Bashar al-Assad regime.