Tunisian Islamist radicals plan Islamic state
29 August 2013, 14:20
Tunis - The freshly banned jihadist group Ansar al-Sharia
was planning a series of political assassinations in Tunisia in its effort to
establish an Islamic emirate in North Africa, the Interior Ministry said on
The ministry disclosed Ansar's plans a day after Prime
Minister Ali Larayedh declared it a terrorist organisation and said the state
now had proof the militants had killed two secular politicians and several
soldiers this year.
Ansar al-Sharia is the most radical Islamist group to emerge
in Tunisia since secular autocratic ruler Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was toppled
in 2011, and poses a test to the authority of the moderate Islamist-led
"This organisation, which was collecting large
quantities of weapons, planned to spread chaos and create a security vacuum
through assassinations, before seizing power and establishing the first Islamic
emirate in North Africa," Mustapha Ben Amor, a senior ministry official,
Among its targets were Mustapha Ben Jaafar, chairman of the
assembly writing a new constitution, former Foreign Minister Kamal Morjan, Amer
Larayedh, a senior official of the governing Islamist party Ennahda, and
several journalists, he said.
Tunisia, which has taken an increasingly tough line against
armed militants stoking uncertainty here, is struggling to save its nascent
democracy amid popular discontent and the Egyptian army's ousting of the Muslim
Brotherhood government there.
Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou told the news conference
that dozens of arrested Ansar members had made confessions that helped the
government piece together its structure and plans.
Among the evidence he showed were documents, videos and
email and Skype exchanges his ministry had obtained that he said proved Ansar
was loyal to al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (Aqm). He also displayed a diagram
depicting Ansar's internal hierarchy.
The ministry added that Ansar, which it said received its
funding from like-minded groups in Yemen, Mali and Libya, also planned to
attack factories and other economic sites in Tunisia.
Ansar leader Saifallah Benahssine, also known as Abu Iyadh,
is a former al Qaeda fighter in Afghanistan being sought by Tunisian police for
allegedly inciting an attack on the US embassy in Tunis in September 2012.
Four people were killed in those disturbances, which began
as a protest over a film that mocked the Prophet Mohammad.
Ansar was the prime suspect in the assassinations of leftist
secular leaders Chokri Belaid in February and Mohamed Brahmi in July, which
police said were carried out with the same gun.
It was also suspected in the killing of eight soldiers, some
of whose throats were slit, in the rugged Mount Chaambi area near the Algerian
border in July.
The assassinations and killings of the soldiers plunged
Tunisia into political turmoil late last month. The discussions and mediated
contacts among politicians in recent weeks are aimed at breaking that deadlock
and leading to new elections.
Ennahda, which governs in coalition with two smaller secular
parties, has come under growing pressure from critics for promoting an Islamist
agenda, mismanaging the economy and the security challenge from radical Salafi
and jihadist Muslims.