TRANSLATED: Warnings in Arabic media about impending security events, strategic & tactical weaknesses in Tunisia
I have a piece coming out in the next few hours in regards to yesterday’s terrorist attack.
Some interesting clips over the last few months below for consideration, with most from Mideastwire.com (for a free trial contact firstname.lastname@example.org).
On August 10, the Qatari owned Al-Quds al-Arabi reported: “Shaykh Farid El Beji has said that a major terrorist scheme targeting Tunisia is being prepared involving about 16,000 extremists holding various nationalities. He called for activating the emergency law, organizing religious discourse, and banning the Salafi parties in the country. In an exclusive interview with Al-Quds al-Arabi, the renowned cleric and security affairs researcher, added: “The investigations that the authorities are conducting have revealed that an operation is being prepared called “Yawm al-Zilzal” or a call to arms. Initially, about 4,000 terrorists from Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, and elsewhere are expected to participate in it. They are now training in Libya, especially for this day. They will carry out at least 50 strikes in several areas at the same time and on the same day, thus creating confusion and chaos in society and the security establishment and providing the chance for the rest of the terrorists to enter Tu! nisia from Libya and Algeria.”
“El Beji added that the sleeping cells or “the cells on call” – as he described them – in Tunisia that consist of about 12,000 elements will participate in this operation as they wait for the suitable moment. Shaykh El Beji went on to say: “The authorities have been aware of this for some time. The antiterrorism teams have delayed this blow by aborting some of the schemes and arresting several emirs of the terrorist groups. Moreover, the situation in Libya has also delayed this terrorist scheme. However, it is still expected to be carried out prior to the upcoming elections.”
“Security sources had said earlier that about 5,000 extremists holding various nationalities are being trained in a camp in the town of Al-Zintan supervised by Saif Allah Ben Hussein (Abu-Ayyad), the leader of Ansar al-Shari’ah, in cooperation with his Algerian ally, Mokhtar Belmokhtar (leader of the Signed With Blood Brigade). The sources had pointed out that they are plotting to carry out a series of attacks in southern Tunisia. Shaykh El Beji (chairman of the Dar al-Hadith al-Zaytouniyah Association and member of the Tunisian Centre for Global Security Studies) added: “The alliance between Abu-Ayyad and Mokhtar Belmokhtar is natural and to be expected. All the terrorist jihadist movements ultimately return to the same ideological origin, namely, the Al-Wahhabi ideology. They may sometimes differ in some jihadist methods and in the strategy of advancing, retreating, and stopping, but they can agree and reconcile in a minute. I have soli! d information that Abu-Ayyad made huge efforts to unify the ranks of the jihadists to attack Tunisia.” Tunisia has recently been the scene of several terrorist operations.
“The most serious was the attack in the Mount Chaambi region that killed 14 Tunisian soldiers in July. The Uqbah Bin-Nafi Brigade affiliated with the Ansar al-Shari’ah organization that is allied with Al-Qa’idah in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for this attack. El Beji is one of the researchers that had warned that terrorist attacks might take place during the month of Ramadan. He adds that the liquidation of political figures in Tunisia is still on the agenda of the terrorist groups. However, he added that recently, these groups have begun to focus on major strikes rather than on individual figures. El-Beji goes on to say: “Nevertheless, the assassination of senior national figures continues to exist. Such acts creates chaos in the country and facilitates the infiltration! of society and the vital institutions.” A few days ago, the Interior Ministry advised Hamma Hammami, spokesman of the Popular Front, to stay at home after it received information about a new scheme to assassinate him. Other security sources had referred earlier to a plot to assassinate senior political figures like Beji Caid Sebsi, leader of the Nida Tounes Party; Shaykh Rached Ghannouchi, leader of the Ennahdah Party; and others.
“Shaykh Farid El Beji argues that the phenomenon of terrorism in Tunisia is due to the strategic mistake made by past governments, especially the troika government, for providing the Ansar al-Shari’ah organization with a political and media cover before classifying it as a terrorist organization.” However, he goes on to say that religious, economic, social, and psychological causes as well as conditions in the region contributed to the exacerbation of this dangerous phenomenon in the country. Nevertheless, he lauded the security forces that succeeded (after they were slightly given a free hand) in aborting hundreds of military operations. He added that the big cooperation between the Tunisian people and the anti-terrorism system by refraining from supporting the terrorists weakened the people’s support for them. He refutes reports that some are propagating that the rate of terrorism grew after the fall of the regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. He argues that th! e principal reason “is not Ben Ali’s fall. The main reason is the call that political parties and human rights societies made after his fall. They called for a general legislative pardon and acquittal of all the terrorists and granting them broad powers to form societies, appear in the media, and organize conferences. When the revolution erupted, I recall being invited to attend conferences and would be taken by surprise to see some terrorists among the audience. This general laxity was caused by the Islamists and advocates of human rights.”
“El Beji also believes that the closing of mosques sent the wrong message to both the terrorists and the Tunisian people: “It looked as if the state was too weak or unable to evict the terrorists from the mosques. This step led to a counter reaction among a large sector of the people that thought that terrorism is not caused by religious extremism but by the old regime that was trying to return to power.” However, El Beji hailed the closing of societies involved in providing logistic and financial support to the terrorists. He adds: “As for the media outlets, media talk shows should not host extremists. For example, a media outlet hosted a shaykh for a whole month to preach to the people about religion, although he had issued a fatwa that young men should be sent to wage jihad in Syria. It would have been better to stop this man than to shut down the outlet.” El Beji believes that the solution lies in pursuing the terrorists instead of ! shutting down the places they frequent. “The Tunisian Government’s anti-terrorism strategy is beset with a weak and fumbling vision,” he added. He went on to say: “The Government still submits to the authority of the constituent assembly that can remove it in one day. It is worried about its reactions, so it cannot make fateful decisions. I can say that the anti-terrorism law is being obstructed by the constituent assembly some of whose members, unfortunately, continue to support the terrorists and refuse to sign the anti-terrorism law. In fact, they are providing the terrorists with political and media support and cover; they defend them strongly to this very day.”
“Shaykh Farid El Beji offers a four-point solution to the dilemma of terrorism in Tunisia. The first step is “the theory of preemptive security” by incriminating and convicting anyone that endorses the jihadist Salafi ideology, banning the Salafi parties, including Hizb al-Tahrir, and revoking their licenses. In the second step, El Beji calls on the president of the republic to re-activate the emergency law since the country is at war with terrorism. Thirdly, he calls for controlling the religious discourse in the mosques by compelling the preachers not to incite to violence and takfiri thinking and not to advocate partisanship and religious sectarianism and to take to court anyone that does not abide by these rules. El Beji adds: “Fourthly, I urge all the political parties to make the fight against terrorism a national issue distant from party differences. We also call for the activation of Ch! apter VI of the constitution that stipulates the confrontation of all takfiri calls and instigation to hatred and violence.” Some see a contradiction between the emergency law and the new climate of freedom in the country. El Beji, however, replies: “What good does freedom do you if you are about to lose your head? Our national security and existence are threatened; existence is the root and freedom is the branch. How can you protect your freedom if your existence is threatened?”
“Regarding the charge that he has outlawed the wearing of the niqab, Shaykh Farid El Beji says: “I was clear about this matter from the beginning. We are not opposed to covering the face, but the niqab and black cloaks have recently been used in terrorist operations. Therefore, we believe that our national interests and security require our women who wish to wear the niqab to wear traditional Tunisian clothes that also include covering the face. It is safer than the niqab.” Earlier, Shaykh Farid ElBeji had warned that a radical religious organization is trying to invade the Tunisian society and impose its hegemony on the state and overthrow it through ideological armed terrorism.”
Tunisian TV July 24
The specialist counterterrorism forces succeeded in the past 24 hours in arresting 52 persons wanted by the security and judicial authorities for their direct or indirect involvement in terrorist cases by supporting terrorism.
[Mohamed] Ali Laroui, official spokesman of the Interior Ministry, confirmed this to the news [department], which also stressed that the specialist counterterrorism units were continuing their security campaigns to pursue the terrorist elements and to dry up their sources.
…The Interior Ministry has announced that the national research unit into the crimes of terrorism which belonged to the general administration of specialist services and units of national security in Mahdia, in coordination with the judicial authorities, succeeded at dawn today in arresting terrorist element Mohamed Anis Chaieb, one of the leading members of the banned Ansar al-Shari’ah organisation, for planning to carry out terrorist acts. The ministry announced that the investigations with the suspect were continuing.
“The same source said that “the Algerian security services arrested a leader belonging to a Libyan Takfiri Salafist group during a security operation in the province of Baskara to the South East of the Algerian capital.”He added that the Libyan Takfiri man is a member of Al-Qa’idah and was going to move from Algeria to Tunisia. He was in possession of documents and letters pertaining to terrorist organizations in Tunisia and Libya.”
“According to the same source, “the Algerian security services succeeded in the past few months in obtaining top secret pieces of information about the Salafist Jihadist groups in Libya, which allowed them to abort an attempt at kidnapping Algerian diplomats from the Algerian embassy in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, this past May.”
Al-Jazeera July 4
In the interview with channel one, Bousaidi spoke about his organisation, saying most of the leaders of armed groups hiding in mountains are Algerians from Al-Qa’idah.
Meanwhile, military operations continued in Mount Selloum near the town of Haie Ezouhour in Kasserine province, west Tunisia, according to Al-Jazeera.
Correspondent Mohamed Bakali said Bousaidi’s confessions should be put in context, considering that he made them in detention, raising questions whether broadcasting those confessions is permissible under international law and also in view of the fact that the court is yet to decide on his case.
Bakali highlighted three main points in Bousaidi’s interview.
First, the links between Tunisian, Algerian and Libyan armed groups, which are said to coordinate their activities and movements.
Second, those who lead armed attacks carried out in Tunisia are Algerians.
Third, armed groups operating in Tunisia are affiliated with Al-Qa’idah, Bakali said quoting Bousaidi.
If those confessions were true, then they could dispel fears about the arrival of the militant group ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) into Tunisia, the correspondent opined.
On weapons and ammunition, Bousaidi said armed groups used Kalashnikov rifles as well as weapons seized from Tunisian policemen and National Guard personnel, according to Bakali.
The Ministry of Interior calls Bousaidi a dangerous terrorist, which means he is either a leader of an armed group or one with special abilities on the ground, he added.
The ministry’s description of Bousaidi might be meant as a message of reassurance to Tunisians worried about a new wave of attacks and recent killings of members of security forces, he noted.
The anti-terrorist military operation, initially launched in Mount Chaambi, has been recently extended to Mount Selloum, Mount Samama and Mount Wargha, all near the border with Algeria, he explained.
The Tunisian army’s offensive is now a combination of airstrikes and ground operations, which seem to cost many military casualties, mostly from landmine explosions, the correspondent said.
Al-Jazeera also reported that the Tunisian Ministry of Religious Affairs dismissed an imam in the southern city of Ben Guerdane for refusing to lead a prayer for a soldier killed in a landmine explosion in Kef province on Wednesday (2 July).
The ministry said it would dismiss any imam with takfiri thoughts, calling on its own imams to adopt a moderate religious discourse and to adhere to tolerant values of Islam.
The dismissed imam is not one of the preachers with extremist thoughts working outside state control but had been appointed by the ministry, Bakali said.
The dismissal is likely to prompt the ministry to subject appointed imams to further scrutiny, he added.
On July 7, the daily El-Watan reported: “Protesters, gathered yesterday in front of the Tahar Djaout press house, openly accused a group affiliated to Mokhtar Belmokhtar of terrorizing the M’zab Valley. They called on the government to ensure the safety of the population. The M’zab Valley is in trouble. It is in the throes of anarchy and insecurity. Yesterday, its population launched the umpteenth distress call to the highest authorities of the country, calling for “security.” This claim was strongly expressed by dozens of Mozabite civil society representatives gathered outside the Tahar Djaout press house in Algiers. The demonstrators were very upset and protested against the deteriorating security situation in their region which is “left to the hands of terrorist groups operating under the control of Mokhtar Belmokhtar.” They chanted slogans against the authorities, which they accuse of being unable to resolve this “crisis” that is shaking the M’zab Valley and of protecting the population. They denounced the insecurity, banditry and terrorism which have been raging for several months in the Ghardaia Province.
“To bring home the reality of the situation, the Mozabites displayed portraits of victims, notably a portrait of El Yassa Aouf, the young man murdered last week by terrorists in the Bouhraoua neighborhood, not far from the RN1. This eighth victim was the straw that broke the camel’s back. “Where were the hundreds of police and gendarmes dispatched when El Yassa was executed by terrorists?” they shouted, decrying the actions of the “repentants” who rule the region. “These terrorists rampage and kill in full view of everyone. Today, the problem in Ghardaia is not an ethnic but a security one,” the leader of the protest deplored. These citizens have decided to take to the streets to attract national public attention to what is happening in Ghardaia. “We are here to denounce the serial murders that are the work of terrorist groups that have been polluting the M’zab Valley for some time lately. To make their actions visible, demonstrators display long banners that read “Amazigh, Mozabites, Ibadis; we are all Algerians,” “Enough of Belmokhtar,” “Where are Sellal’s promises?”, “Where is the authority of the state?” “Let’s put an end of impunity”, “Stop terrorism,” … They believe that the situation is very serious and that “Ghardaia is burning.”
“Abou Rabia, the leader of this action, wonders: “Is the state aware of what is happening in this southern region? Is it aware that the stability of Algeria depends on the stability of Ghardaia?” Representatives of the Ghardaia civil society are asking the state to fully shoulder its responsibilities. They speak of the dangerous developments in the situation and the daily violence they are experiencing due to a terrorist group. The Mozabites are asking: “The passive action of the government is intriguing and unacceptable. How does one explain its failure to provide appropriate solutions to the issues raised by the population of Ghardaia? ” The organizers of this action are incensed by Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal who, according to them, “makes a mockery” of the inhabitants of Ghardaia. “Sellal has not protected us. Farmers are prevented from tending to their palm trees. In our view, there is no political will to address the problems shaking the M’zab Valley. So we wonder: Who is benefiting from this deteriorating situation?” asks Mr Abou Rabia.”
On July 10, the Qatari-owned Al-Quds al-Arabi daily carried the following report: “A Tunisian military analyst expected to see suicide operations in her country, pointing to the fact that more than 45 million weapons were smuggled from Libya in the last few years. Badra Qaaloul, the director of the International Center for Military and Security Studies, said that Tunisia might witness suicide operations targeting the tourism sector and electoral posts in the country, indicating that a qualitative development had affected the culture of the extremist groups in the region. She added in exclusive statements to Al-Quds al-Arabi: “The new generation of Al-Qa’idah now has the culture of initiative and taking things into its own hands without going back to the center, i.e. the Al-Qa’idah command. This new culture poses a great threat to our country, and during the month of Ramadan and the tourism season, Tunisia might witness new terrorist operations.”
“She then assured that more than ever before, Tunisia was threatened with terrorism, adding that the terrorist groups were waiting for the right opportunity to carry out suicide operations targeting civilians, after they inflicted great losses on the army and security forces. Indeed, four Tunisian soldiers were killed a few days ago, after a landmine exploded on their path in Jebel Ouergha in the Kef province (northwest), where the army is carrying out a sweeping operation to look for extremist elements involved in terrorist operations inside the country. On the other hand, Qaaloul assured that the weapons trade was flourishing in the Arab Maghreb region lately, pointing out (according to a reliable Libyan security source) that more than 45 million weapons were smuggled from Libya to the neighboring states, Syria and Ukraine.
“She added that there were very close ties between the weapon smugglers and traders on one hand and the terrorists in the region on the other… At the same time, the Arab Maghreb is witnessing dangerous developments, after Al-Qa’idah Organization in the Islamic Maghreb and Ansar ash-Shariaa organization pledged allegiance to ISIL Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, but also in light of the talk about efforts being deployed by leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar in Libya, to unify the ranks of the fighters who have returned from Syria under the umbrella of a new terrorist organization. She said at this level: “ISIL is a provoked intelligence formation created by the West to generate anarchy and weaken the Arab countries, especially those enjoying massive underground wealth. The organization has nothing to do with Islam and its only doctrine is to generate turmoil and pillage the region’s wealth.”
“She continued that the pledge of allegiance to ISIL by Ansar ash-Shariaa fell in the context of “joint interests,” cautioning that this will lead to the increase of the terrorist operations in the region.” She added: “In regard to Mokhtar Belmokhtar, he is always seeking a leading position because he is obsessed with power. This is why he is always in conflict with the other extremist organizations. But I do not think he will be able to unify the extremist organizations in the context of a new one, because – as I have already said – the new generation of Al-Qa’idah advocates a new culture of rebellion against their commanders, although they had pledged loyalty to them in the past.””
Tunisian commanders in Syria
Al-Quds al-Arabi July 5
Speaking to Al-Quds al-Arabi, a Jordanian government source denied that the Jordanian Army took part in any military operations against DA’ISH [Arabic acronym for ISIL, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant]. At the same time, however, eyewitnesses asserted to Al-Quds al-Arabi that the night before last, unidentified military aircraft dropped paratroopers over a training camp belonging to DA’ISH in the Al-Ukayrishi area in the east of the Syrian Al-Raqqah Governorate.
The witnesses said that paratroopers were dropped from helicopters in the city the night before last following intensive sorties by Mig fighter planes. They added that a stealth helicopter dropped paratroopers in the Al-Ukayrishi area near DA’ISH’s training camp, known as Sheikh Usamah Bin-Ladin camp.
The eyewitnesses said: “Some of the soldiers blocked the Al-Raqqah Road that leads to the camp, under cover by warplanes, to be prepared to attack any force that might head to the camp site if assistance is needed. They also searched houses in the village, which is close to the camp.”
The witnesses asserted that the force members who spoke English began their attack on the camp after 2 am and first targeted all antiaircraft guns in the camp. Five DA’ISH members were killed and a number of others wounded as a result of an ensuing clash that lasted more than half an hour, the witnesses said.
Among the dead was Abu-al-Bara al-Tunisi and Abu-Muhammad al-Tunisi who worked as a trainer in the organization. Both of them are of a Tunisian origin.
Pieces of clothes belonging to the attacking soldiers were found in the camp, and the witnesses claimed that the clothes bore US and Jordanian insignias. They affirmed that there were casualties among the attackers.
It is known that the camp is an oil facility that the organization turned into an important detention centre where it investigates its prisoners. The detention centre is 20 km to the south of the Al-Ukayrishi Village.
It is recalled that the organization has many prisons located in various parts of the governorate. Most important among them is the governorate building, which is the organization’s main headquarters, the military court building in Al-Raqqah City, and the secret Ba’th Dam Prison, in addition to the prisons in Al-Mansurah, the border area of Tall Abyad, the municipal athletic field, the Al-Tala’i camp on the entrance to the city, and other areas in the Al-Raqqah Governorate.
A large number of the revolutionary movement leaders, media activists, and leaders of the free army, in addition to leaders of Islamic factions, are held in the DA’ISH prisons.
Observers said that the paratroopers may have been dropped in response to the military parade that the organization held in the Al-Raqqah City streets to celebrate the establishment of the “Islamic caliphate” and appointment of Abdallah Ibrahim Awwad, alias Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi, as caliphate of Muslims on 29 June 2014.
Armoured US Hummer vehicles, which the organization recently seized from the Iraqi Army and some of which were brought into Syria across the border, appeared in the military parade. Also, tanks, armoured cars, large-caliber artillery guns, and a Scud missile loaded on a truck with a launching pad appeared in the parade.