Tunisia attacks indicate an evolution
Recently, Tunisia has been the target of several attacks by the Islamic State and this has resulted in the death of dozens of citizens and tourists alike. Earlier this year, in March, more than 20 people lost their lives after terrorists attacked the Bardo National Museum while in June, over 30 people on holiday were killed by a trigger-happy gunman at the Sousse resort.
Yesterday, a bus carrying a few members of the Presidential Guard was attacked by a bomb which resulted in 12 recorded deaths and many more injuries. In a reaction to the attack, President Essebsi cancelled a scheduled trip to Europe and declared a state of emergency which will last for a month. In a response speech, the Prime Minister, Habib Essid, said the terrorists, who remain unknown, responsible for the attacks have switched up their mode of operation. “This is an evolution in the behavior of the terrorists, this time they attacked a symbol of the state and in the heart of the capital”, he said.
The attack shows a different trend as well as a strong warning to the Tunisian authorities, indicating that they need to tighten security within the state in order to effectively combat the Islamic State which has recorded an influx of over 2,000 Tunisians so far.
In addition to the current problems the state is facing, al-Qaeda and the Islamic State are fighting for local jihadist supremacy within the region. Washington Institute Fellow, Aaron Y. Zelin mentions that if al-Qaeda and IS fighters continually seek local supremacy in the country it will only breed more trouble, as it could lead to an escalation of violence in the state, affecting even more lives and property.
According to Zelin, there have been indications in the past over an impending al-Qaeda and IS terrain war. Islamic State (IS) intends to build a base and set up a new ‘wilayah’ (province) in Tunisia in the near future named ‘Wilayat Ifriqiya’, a medieval name for the region of Tunisia as well as northwest Libya and northeast Algeria. This would challenge al-Qaeda’s monopoly on insurgency and terrorism since their campaign in Jebel Chambi began in December 2012, opening another front in the broader AQ-IS war, his essay states.
The Tunisian government needs to address the issues of youths joining the Islamic State to fight, arming themselves for a terrain war with al-Qaeda. The month-long state of emergency, as granted by the president, is only the first step.