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
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
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.