Terror Cells on the Move in Tunisia, Attracting Vulnerable Youth

On Sep. 6, a terror attack took place in the Tunisian coastal city of Sousse and resulted in the death of a policeman. The operation revealed that there are sleeper cells active in Tunisia, instructed to conduct slaughter and abuse practices.

In Tunisia, the number of sleeper cells is estimated at more than 180, spread all over the country. Each cell consists of three to seven members, always youngsters, belonging to vulnerable social groups. It seems that the militants have a tremendous ability to deceive the youth and brainwash them, turning them into an explosive belt that could act at any moment.

Thousands of Takfiris are banned

Security authorities in Tunisia say that they have prevented more than 15,000 young men and women from traveling to Syria to join ISIS, some of them have been arrested and some are under watch, indicating that some of them have the intention and will to become terrorists.

Around 70 jihadist cells have been dismantled by the security services. They were active in popular neighborhoods and consisted of young men and women. Today, Tunisia tops the list of countries exporting terrorists, as there are 6,000 to 7,000 Tunisians fighting for ISIS, with dozens of them holding command positions.

Security and Feeling Satisfied

The relation of Tunisian youth with terrorist organizations dates back to the late seventies and early eighties, when dozens of people traveled to Afghanistan to fight alongside Al-Qaeda against the Soviet Union forces at that time, and that period coincided with the beginning of the so-called “Islamic awakening”.

However, the “migration” of Tunisian youth from a tolerant moderate society that rejects violence towards terrorist organizations witnessed a qualitative transformation seven years ago, where it turned into the most dangerous phenomenon that could ruin thousands of people and threaten the stability of society.

The bad economic and social conditions helped jihadist groups to brainwash and recruit young men in terrorist groups, sending them to Turkey and from there to Syria and Iraq to fight in the ranks of Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS.

In light of a stifling crisis afflicting the country, casting its repercussions on society and spreading misery and despair, thousands of them found a safe haven for self-fulfillment in the jihad banners raised by militant groups.

Muhammad al-Juwaili, head of the Tunisian Youth Observatory, has told MENA Research and Study Centre that young people in Tunisia are attempting to find identity and fulfill their emotions and gain power. The horizon of Tunisian youth is blocked, thus, they are looking for something to compensate that reality. Previously, they were compensating by clandestine immigration or drugs, however, the terror networks came with considerable funds, promising them of paradise, sex, solidarity, and lots of other things. “These organizations provided the Tunisian youth with safety and a sense of value, in addition to answers for some questions and concerns that were always been raised,” Juwaili said.

He stressed that most of those affiliated with the terrorist and extremist groups have low educational levels and suffer from very miserable social conditions. However, there are some young people who have high educational levels and came from high social classes.

With regard to solutions, the head of the Youth Observatory said that it is necessary to address the gains and answers provided by these organizations and networks, to provide answers that are more varied. “We must also care about our youth and give them answers, given that the more we provide them with answers to their questions and concerns, the more we prevent them from joining terrorist networks,”, adding that “we have to admit the importance of young people and pay attention to the basic services provided to them, especially in the poor-class neighborhoods, as those neighborhoods are the environment in which the young people live.“

“We have to create hope for the youth, to improve education, pay more attention to employment and youth facilities, especially since a large number of them feel neglected by the government.“

Political parties and experts are calling for developing a strategic security and military plan that can also be social, cultural and religious for combatting terrorism, and immunizing youth against brainwashing operations carried out by jihadist groups that will exploit their disappointment.

Social and psychological specialists believe that the Tunisian youth is more vulnerable and might become more fragile, frustrated and depressed, making them more susceptible to dangerous phenomena, foremost among which is joining terrorist groups, unless Tunisian authorities provide work and improve living standards, and unless the political parties and civil society organizations set plans and programs to enhance a solid civic culture that fortifies their personality and opens up new horizons to prove themselves in society.

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