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1,300 Tunisian students involved in jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq

The results of a poll conducted at the University of Tunis published on Thursday have revealed that nearly 1,300 Tunisian students are currently involved in jihadist organisations outside Tunisia.

The General Union of Tunisian Students stated in a press conference that the poll's results regarding the involvement of Tunisian students in terrorism, which was conducted over a three month period across most Tunisian universities, revealed that 1,300 university students are involved in groups in Syria and Iraq, and to a lesser degree in Libya.

The Union added that dozens of the students who were involved in terrorism are now detained in Tunisian prisons.

According to international reports, Tunisians make up one of the highest percentages of jihadist fighters in extremist organisations abroad, most notably the Islamic State (ISIS) organisation.

A member of the Union, Riyad Al-Daziri, told Tunisian Radio that "the numbers are shocking. If the elites of Tunisian society are involved in such actions, then the results will be even more devastating amongst the less-educated circles."

The Tunisian Interior Ministrypreviously stated that the number of Tunisian jihadists involved in fighter cells abroad has reached 2,500-3,000 fighters, over 500 of whom have returned to Tunisia. Many of these fighters have been prosecuted while others remain under security surveillance.

However, the number of Tunisian jihadists outside the country could have been much higher; the Interior Ministry confirmed in mid-April that state security agencies have prevented over 12,000 young men from travelling since March 2013, as they were suspected of going to combat zones.

The security surveillance of extremists in Tunisia suspected of being members of the Okba Ibn Nafaa Brigade has revealed that a number of terrorists were actually engineering and science students and graduates.

Al-Daziri also noted that the results of the poll suggest that the students most attracted to jihadist groups are the science students rather than those studying the liberal arts.

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