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Tunisia: purge of interior ministry settles political scores

Tunisian Interior Minister Taoufik Charfeddine in Tunis, Tunisia on 6 November 2020 [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency]
Tunisian Interior Minister Taoufik Charfeddine in Tunis, Tunisia on 6 November 2020 [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency]

Informed sources have told Arabi21 that dismissals of staff at Tunisia's Ministry of the Interior by Minister Taoufik Charfeddine is intended to "purge it of Ennahda-affiliated security leaders". Charfeddine's purge has led to the "early retirement" of officials close to Khaled Yahyaoui, the security advisor to the president.

"There is a conflict between the head of the presidential office, Nadia Akacha, along with security advisor Khaled Yahyaoui on the one hand, and the minister of the interior, the president's wife and his brother on the other," said a ministry source. "The two parties are plotting against each other and the fulcrum is the extent of influence that both sides have over the Tunisian president."

Since his return as interior minister on 11 October after he had been dismissed by former Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi, Charfeddine has ordered at least twenty senior officials to be "retired" on the pretext that they are linked to Ennahda movement. They include the head of the special services (intelligence), Al-Azhar Longo, who was already under house arrest; Bilal Al-Mannai, the head of the Criminal Investigation Directorate of the Criminal Police; Waheed Tojani, the former head of the National Security Service; Mohamed Ali Aroui, the former spokesman of the ministry; and Abdul Karim Al-Obeidry, the former head of the aircraft security team.

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The list of "retired" people also includes several who are close to Yahyaoui who, according to Charfeddine, was suspected of sympathising with Ennahda.

Among the most prominent names is Mokhtar Hammami, who was appointed on 16 September as head of the National Guard (gendarmerie) of Grand Tunis area, which is a strategically significant position. In addition to securing the outskirts of the capital, his men can come at any time to support the presidential security staff led by Yahyaoui in the event of unrest around the presidential palace in Carthage.

The arrests have provoked the security unions to call on the interior minister to provide "evidence of the charges attributed to the dismissed figures which meant referring them for compulsory retirement."

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