What I saw, The Islamic State/Daesh and the future for Tunisia
03 July 2015
On Friday 24 June 2015 The Islamic State (IS) or the Daesh as they are referred to in Africa and the Middle East sprung a series of deadly attacks through sleeper cells in Tunisia, France and Kuwait.
The attack in Tunisia occurred in the tourist region of El Kantaoui in the coastal city of Sousse, killing 38 people and injuring many more – mostly British holidaymakers. A little after 12.00 pm the assailant, 23 year old Abu Yahya al-Qirawani, an electronics student carrying an Ak47 assault rifle with his mind being driven by a cocktail of drugs was nonchalantly able to infiltrate the Hotel Riu Imperial Marhaba’s private beach. The Daesh associate then from his Kalashnikov randomly unleashed more than a 100 rounds toward the unwitting sunbathers and swimmers following which he tossed a grenade in the hotels reception area.
I’m not surprised by this heinous event given the considerable growth of Daesh influence in the region over the last year, nor am I surprised about this attack being so soon and so successful for Daesh after their assault on the Bardot Museum in Tunis.
The countries security forces operate under some harsh conditions scorching heat, long hours and abysmal salaries not to mention the dated hardware they are issued with. In fact the alleged terrorists shot to date in Tunisia have been seen with more modern and better armoury. With all these issues coupled with Islamic Ramahdan duties it’s no wonder the security men and women are a little lethargic whilst on patrol.
Leading up to the attack the Tunisian forces were on high alert like headless chickens they moved around Sousse’s El Kantaoui area all the time attempting to stay out of site of the unsuspecting holidaymakers. Occasionally check points and road blocks would be erected only to be removed a few hours later.
For a few hours each day El Kantaoui resembled the dark days when the overthrown dictator ben Ali was in power.
You didn’t need to be a rocket scientist or need Big Bangs Sheldon Cooper to figure out something was up. Tunisia’s keystone cops screwed up you can’t stop every terror attack, but when you know of something in the offing for days and weeks why would you intermittently guard only the front gates of hotels or the roads leading up to them and yet completely ignore the accesses in the rear?
On Tuesday days after the assault the countries president said ‘the security forces did not expect this kind of attack and for it to come from the beach’ Really Mr president? He was only confirming what I had told the media only hours after the incident.
With an officially estimated 3,000 plus foreign fighters from Tunisia (I believe twice that number) considered to be supporting the Daesh in Syria, Iraq and Libya, there is no doubt that the country is a major hotbed for jihadi recruitment. It’s no secret that members of Daesh covertly travel back to Tunisia for rest bite in-between their intense stints in the theatre of war in Syria Iraq and Libya.
Effectively today Tunisia is the Jihadis back garden.
It doesn’t surprise me either that despite almost 30 of its own officers being killed in ant- terror operations in the last year alone and over 1000 arrests of suspected Jihadis the government of this small tourist dependent nation blatantly continued to miss sell the country as a safe holiday haven.
However the only thing that does surprises me is that Westerners will still insist on vacationing there.
Today Tunisia is burning however the flames have not been kindled by the scorching sun. The once sleeping North African paradise is a victim of its own success.
Once tipped to be the No1 holiday venue for Europeans and for an entry into the world’s top 5 by 2020 for golf tourism, Tunisia is not going to be any of that any time soon.
The tourism business had lost considerable momentum after the revolution however, since the Bardot Museum attack Sousse and Monastir have seen large hotel complexes closed down at a rate of 2 a month. Unemployment has risen sharply, anxiety and intolerance has set in with the locals.
Once good friends and now desperate, taxi drivers, neighbouring restaurant workers, souvenir hawkers are all getting involved in quarrels and even physical bust ups with each other over clients.
The country has a very high rate of literacy, college and university graduates but job options are scarce. The new generation have nowhere to go to improve their future. Exiting Tunisia for a better life abroad is near on impossible and so they turn to Libya. Some board the refugee boats to Europe others become ensnared by the Daesh recruiting machine.
Where does Tunisia go from here is anyone’s guess. Many now wish for the return of the once safe but oppressed days when the dictator Ben Ali ran the country with an iron fist. They say at least we had jobs then, at least there was no terrorism then, at least we and Tunisia had a future then.