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Tunisia says 2,000 stopped from going to conflict zones

AFP , Monday 9 May 2016
Tunisian policemen
Tunisian policemen (File Photo: Reuters)
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Tunisian authorities prevented nearly 2,000 people from travelling abroad to join militant groups in the first three months of this year, interior ministry spokesman Yasser Mesbah said on Monday.

Since January, authorities have also dismantled 33 suspected "terrorist" cells and put on trial 1,400 people accused of belonging to a "terrorist organisation", Mesbah told private radio station Shems FM.

"In 2016, 1,877 Tunisians were prevented from leaving the country to travel to zones of tension," Mesbah said, without identifying these destinations.

Since its 2011 revolution, Tunisia has faced a growing jihadist threat, with the Islamic State group last year claiming a string of deadly attacks on holidaymakers and security forces that killed dozens.

Thousands of Tunisians have joined jihadist groups in conflict zones such as Iraq, Syria and Libya over the past few years.

Mesbah told AFP that most of the suspects prevented from travelling abroad to join militant groups this year were young people aged between 20 and 23 who have been placed under daily surveillance.

In the radio interview, Mesbah said that since January authorities have also carried out 1,733 raids on the homes of people suspected of sheltering "terrorist elements".

During that same period, 140 suspects were arrested in connection with facilitating the travel of would-be militant fighters abroad, he added.

Mesbah said the interior ministry had a string of measures ready to fight "the war against terrorism", and is ready to ensure security at any event including the Jewish Lag BaOmer festival.

The annual gathering, during which pilgrims visit the tombs of revered rabbis and the famed El Ghriba synagogue on the holiday island of Djerba, will take place on May 25 and 26.

Israel on Monday warned of the danger of attacks targeting Jews and urged them to avoid travel to Tunisia.

A 2002 suicide bombing claimed by Al-Qaeda killed 21 people in Djerba, which is home to one of the last Jewish communities in the Arab world.

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