Tunisia Prevents 8000 ’Jihadists’ from Fighting in Syria
Around 400 Tunisian jihadists have returned from fighting in the Syrian war, the interior minister said, sparking fears that the battle-hardened militants could fuel Islamist violence back home.
Numerous Tunisians have joined the ranks of Takfiri terrorist groups battling to overthrow the Syrian government, raising fears in the North African country of further violence on their return.
“We have managed to prevent nearly 8,000 people from going to Syria,” Lotfi Ben Jeddou said late Monday, speaking after a security and counter-terrorism meeting.
“We don’t have exact figures for those who have returned, but they are estimated to number around 400,” he added.
Ben Jeddou admitted that the authorities had failed to arrest many of the Takfiris who have returned home due to a “legal loophole,” without further elaborating.
“But we are following them very closely. We have built up a data base… They have acquired experience and training and must be monitored,” he said.
Last year, the public prosecutor opened an inquiry into networks recruiting and facilitating the departure to Syria of young Tunisians fighters.
At the time the interior ministry said it had stepped up airport checks to try to prevent would-be combatants from heading there.
For more than a year, the security forces have been battling extremist militants hiding out in the remote border regions of western Tunisia, notably in the Chaambi mountains.