Tunisia revolution’s ‘box of secrets” withdraws at apex of political crisis
TUNIS - Tunisia’s chief of staff of the armed forces Rachid Ammar has unexpectedly announced his retirement on Tuesday after being criticized over the army’s inability to catch a group of al-Qaeda-linked militants.
“I decided to leave the service under the age limit… I asked the president Moncef Marzouki on Saturday (June 22) and he agreed to my departure,” the 65-year old Tunisian General said.
During the uprising in 2011, the army’s chief of staff, was seen as having a key role in forcing out President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali by banning troops from firing on protesters at the pro-democracy revolt.
However, opposing politicians have recently criticized Ammar for the army’s inability to find the group of extremists near the Algerian border.
Tunisians also accused him of extraditing Baghadi al-Mahmoudi, who was the Libyan prime minister under the rule of Moamer Gathafi, to Libya.
According to the statement he made on Ettounsiyya TV, Ammar had wanted to retire since 2006 but has been one way or another convinced to stay.
General Ammar’s retirement comes amid escalating tensions between moderate activists and Salafi extremists in Tunisia.
It is also feared that the return of Tunisian militants, who are fighting the government in Syria, may intensify insecurity in Tunisia, as the militants are recruited by al-Qaeda-affiliated groups.
The Tunisia revolution started when 26-year-old street vendor Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire on December 17, 2010 in protest against the confiscation of his wares by a municipal official.
Bouazizi’s death sparked mass protests that lead to the ouster of the Western-backed President, Ben Ali, in early 2011.