Tunisia | 18 July 2019

Tunisia: Islamic State group strikes again as elections loom closer

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Two suicide bombings in Tunis killed a police officer and wounded 9 others, as reported by the New York Times on 27 June 2019. The Islamic State group (IS) claimed responsibility for both attacks, one of which occurred near the French Embassy and the other close to a military base. According to BBC News reporting on 5 July 2019, one response by the Tunisian government has been to ban the wearing of the niqab (a head-covering which completely veils the face) in government buildings on grounds of security. Michael Bosch, persecution analyst at World Watch Research, comments: "IS also claimed responsibility for the last suicide bombing in October 2018 and it is clear that Tunisia remains vulnerable to such attacks. It is understood that these bombings are probably planned and prepared in Libya, where anarchy and the lack of a central government provides space for radical Islamic activities. Nevertheless, the scale and effect of the more recent attacks are small compared to the major attacks in March and June 2015 which killed more than 50 tourists. This has encouraged Tunisia"s Minister of Tourism to quickly affirm that everything is returning to normal, hoping that the gradual recovery of the tourist industry since 2015 will remain unaffected." Michael Bosch continues: "The attacks come at a critical time. Tunisia is preparing for parliamentary and presidential elections in October and November 2019 and the next few months will be decisive for Tunisia"s future. President Beji Caid Essebsi is ageing and was hospitalized in June; up until now he has been an important, calming influence on Tunisian politics, in which the pro-Islamic opposition party, Ennahda, is competing against a divided and internally struggling secular bloc. The question now is whether the nation will look to political Islamism for results or whether the people still believe that the secularists can deliver the promised stability and economic progress? If Tunisia steers towards more democracy, this is likely to mean more freedom for its small Christian community, which makes up only 0.2% of the population (according to World Christian Database estimates for 2019)."


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