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Tunisia: Suicide blast was 'isolated act' by jobless woman

Tunisian security forces take measures by cordoning off the area after a woman blew herself up in Tunis, Tunisia on 29 October 2018 [Mohamed Mdalla/Anadolu Agency]
Tunisian security forces take measures by cordoning off the area after a woman blew herself up in Tunis, Tunisia on 29 October 2018 [Mohamed Mdalla/Anadolu Agency]

Tunisia's economic woes are under scrutiny after the government revealed that a suicide blast committed by a woman earlier this week was an "isolated act" committed after years of the perpetrator being unemployed.

Thirty-year-old Mouna Guebla detonated explosives on Monday near a gathering of police cars in the upmarket Habib Bourguiba Avenue in central Tunis, injuring some 15 officers and two teenagers in the first such attack in the city since 2015.

Having graduated from university with a degree in English, Guebla, from the eastern region of Mahdia, had reportedly failed to find work for several years and was working as a shepherdess.

Interior Minister Hichem Fourati said this week that Guebla was not on a watch-list of potential extremists "and was not known for her religious background or affiliation".

"It was an isolated act, the security services were on the alert, they intervened very quickly," he told reporters.

Guebla's family similarly described her as a "model" if "naive" young woman, who spent a lot of time at the computer.

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The incident has prompted a renewed focus at socio-economic conditions in Tunisia, eight years after Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire in frustration at being unable to find employment, an incident which sparked the Arab Spring across the region. Unemployment has remained largely stagnant in recent years at 15 per cent, but the proportion is significantly higher for the youth, with nearly a third of graduates unable to find work.

Slow economic growth has also been complicated by continuing political instability; the country has witnessed seven prime ministers since the ousting of president Zine El Abedine Ben Ali and cabinet reshuffles are a regular occurrence.

Tunisians have been battling with several austerity measures as part of the government's commitment to an International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme in 2016 worth some $2.8 billion. As a result, the country has witnessed dozens of protests since the beginning of the year over cuts to wages and the subsidies of basic food staples, amid high unemployment and inflation.

According to a poll conducted by the private company Sigma Conseil earlier this year, nearly 80 per cent of Tunisians believe that the country is on the wrong track, with many expressing increased dissatisfaction with the actions of the president and prime minister.

Frustration over economic conditions has also driven many towards groups like Daesh, who promise high salaries in return for military service. Thousands of Tunisians have journeyed to neighbouring Libya for training, before joining the so-called Islamic State's fight in Syria, Iraq, Yemen or Mali.

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