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ICC NOTE: Authorities identified blueprints of foreign embassies and documents describing foreign envoys as targets.

Tunisia Says Suspects in Gun Battle Had Blueprints of Embassies

New York Times

January 14, 2007

More than two dozen Islamic extremists involved in a

deadly gun battle with the Tunisian police earlier this month had

blueprints of foreign embassies and documents identifying foreign

envoys as targets, the Tunisian interior minister said Friday.

It was the first official explanation of the firefight since TAP, the

state news agency, reported that the police had engaged “dangerous

criminals” in a rare shootout south of the capital on Jan. 3, the

second violent incident in three weeks.

“Investigations have allowed us to seize quantities of homemade

explosives, plans of certain foreign embassies, as well as documents

containing the names of certain foreign diplomats resident in

Tunisia ,” said the interior minister, Rafik Haj Kacem, according to

the news agency. He did not disclose the countries or people who

apparently had been targets.

Islamic extremism has been growing across North Africa , the far edge

of a fundamentalist religious trend that is polarizing societies

between rich and poor.

While the upper and middle classes in all of these countries are

largely modernist, secular and Western-oriented, a religious

resurgence among the lower classes — heavily influenced by the

fundamentalist Salafi school of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia — has

fueled the rise of Islamic parties from the Islamic Brotherhood in

Egypt to the Justice and Development Party in Morocco .

The extremism has produced terrorist threats, and resulted in

terrorist attacks, in every country along the southern Mediterranean

coast and most European countries across the sea. A bomb in Tunisia ‘s

main tourist center on the island of Djerba killed 21 people in April


Since then, there has been no open threat in the tightly controlled

country. But Islamic terrorist activity has long threatened to bleed

into Tunisia from neighboring Algeria , where the small but violent

Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, or G.S.P.C. as it is known by

its French acronym, is fighting for an Islamic theocracy in North

Africa .

Those fears were bolstered Friday when the Interior Ministry announced

that six members of the group — five Tunisians and a Mauritanian — had

crossed into the country from Algeria .

Two Tunisian newspapers close to the government have reported that the

group had ties to the G.S.P.C., according to Agence France-Presse.

In December, the Interior Ministry reported that two people had been

killed and two arrested in a shootout with the police in Hammam Lif, a

suburb of Tunis , the capital.

Then, on Jan. 3, the ministry reported that the police had been

engaged in another shootout with the group in Soliman, 25 miles south

of the capital, Tunis , killing 12 people and arresting 15. Two

security force members were also killed.

It was not until Friday that the government confirmed widespread

speculation that the people involved had been Islamic extremists.