Tunisia has renewed its state of emergency for an additional three months despite government assurances of improved security in the country. The special measures have been in place across the North African state since a deadly Daesh terror attack in 2015, which left 12 presidential guards dead in the capital Tunis. The latest move was announced by the president’s office.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Youssef Chahed told a local radio station that the state of emergency would “definitively be lifted in three months.” The police have been given special powers and, in theory, the authorities have the right to prohibit strikes and meetings likely to provoke “disorder”. The state of emergency also permits authorities “to ensure control of the press.”
The decision coincided with news about the large number of Tunisian nationals who have joined the ranks of Daesh over the past few years but have now decided to return home. This is likely to provoke additional security disturbances in the country. Although Interior Minister Hedi Majdoub claimed recently that fewer than 3,000 fighters have returned to Tunisia, international reports claim that the number has gone beyond 5,500.
Nevertheless, Defence Minister Farhat Horchani said that there had been a “major improvement” in the country’s security situation. “As long as our situation is linked to Libya, though, and as long as Libya does not have a government that is in control of the situation,” he warned, “the threat exists.”
Tunisia shares a 500 kilometre border with Libya, a country plagued by chaos since the NATO-backed ouster of its former dictator, Muamar Gaddafi, in 2011. Taking advantage of the situation, Daesh terrorists have managed to gain a foothold in Tunisia’s larger neighbour. The group was also behind attacks in 2015 at the Bardo National Museum in Tunis and a beach resort, which together killed 59 foreign tourists and a Tunisian security officer.
These deadly incidents were part of an ongoing insurgency since a 2011 revolution toppled long-time dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.