Tunisian museum attack sounds alarm on terror expansion in North Africa

CAIRO, March 19 (Xinhua) — The deadly attack in Tunisia’s renowned National Bardo Museum has sparked alert for the terrorist expansion in North Africa, home to many “dormant terror cells,” analysts said on Thursday.

Tunisian local media dubbed the museum raid, which left 22 dead and over 50 injured, as “the most deadly in the North Africa nation in more than a decade.” It is not immediately clear which group was behind the attack.

Many speculated that the attack is linked to the death of Ahmed Rouissi, a Tunisian terrorist, who had established several camps for the Islamic State (IS) in Libya.

Security sources in Libya also suggested IS affiliates had been infiltrated back and forth between the porous Tunisian-Libyan border, smuggling fuels and weapons.

Some analysts said the bloodshed raised fears that the extremists can already move about freely in the regional countries, including Tunisia, Libya, Algeria and Egypt.

Yousri Azabawi, professor in political sciences at Cairo University, said terrorism has already been expanding in the North African countries since the 2011 political turmoil, which hit many Arab countries, and the economic and political difficulties have provided fertile soil for it to grow.

“Terrorism is mainly found from weak countries. It’s like they have waked up the dormant terrorist cells,” Azabawi said. He also warned more similar attacks might come in the near future if these countries do not truly deepen their security cooperation.

Last year, Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria and other countries neighboring Libya have already held rounds of talks on preventing Libya’s terrorism from spilling over.

However, it seemed the dialogue did not produce positive results, as dozens of extremist militants groups were found in countries’ bordering or remote areas.

Some of the terror groups, like Ansar al-Sharia, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and IS, have established recruiting depots and training camps inside or near Libya, and many are plotting to mount attacks in foreign countries like Egypt or even as far as Europe, a Libyan security official, who declined to disclose his name, said.

The official added the anarchic Libya is now burdening the neighboring countries at different levels, both socially and politically, and the the country has made a security havoc and become a haven for regional outlaws.

The terrorists can now obtain a sophisticated arsenal of weapons and massive amount of weapons flooded into the region after the downfall of the late leader Muammar Gaddafi, Hazem al-Qasouri, a member working in a Tunisian NGO working for arms control, said.

RETURNEES’ THREAT

While homegrown terrorism breeds, the battle-worn fighters returned from Syria and Iraq might pose a greater problem, some analysts said.

Tunisian government earlier estimated that up to 3,000 of its citizens have gone abroad to join Jihad, making them the largest number of foreign fighters in IS. Some of them have returned to their homeland to inspire like-minded people.

An earlier report also showed Libya now has around 9,000 extremist militants. Among them many have combat experience in Syria or Iraq.

Saeed Lawendi, a political analyst at Egypt’s Ahram Center, said the fighters returned from IS can cause negative impacts and attract more Jihadists coming to the region, especially at a time that the IS are having setbacks in Iraq.

“These people will not surrender their dreams easily under the principal of creating one caliphate for all Muslims,” Lawendi said, adding that an urgent intelligence, logistic and training coordination among the North African countries is needed when facing the growing threats of terrorism.