According to local media a judge at the first instance tribunal of Kebili decided to transfer eight individuals suspected of involvement in terrorist activities to the Judicial Pole for Terrorism in Tunis, stemming from an incident over the weekend in which an Islamic State flag was raised a government building in the Kebili Governorate.
The Ministry of the Interior announced that an initial investigation into the removal of the Tunisian national flag and the raising of a black Islamic State flag in its place led to the arrest of “thirty “takfiris” (salafist extremists).
The statement added “These investigations helped unmask a terrorist cell from the region which used to make propaganda of for their claim to establish a Daesh (Islamic State) emirate in the area.”
The morning of Friday, March 11, the residents of Zaafrane near Douz (Kebili Governorate) in central Tunisia woke up to find the black flag of the Islamic State flying over the regional agricultural center instead of the Tunisian flag. After taking in between twenty and thirty individuals for questioning several arrests have been made and eight individuals are being sought by the local authorities.
According to several other media outlets between two and three dozen suspects were taken in for questioning on Friday. MosaiqueFM said 32 suspects were taken in for questioning and that all but three were subsequently released. It is not clear whether those suspects are the ones the Interior Ministry’s statement referred to and that they were not released, or whether thirty additional individuals were taken into custody in addition to those released.
According to both TAP and MosaiqueFM the authorities believe ten individuals have ties to the incident. Two of the ten are reportedly among those currently in custody, considering that the Ministry statement made no reference to further suspects as a previous statement had, it may be reasonable to assume the remaining eight are in custody.
On February 24 the local offices of the Ennahda party in Douz were the target of arson attack. Although an investigation was initiated and is still open, no arrests were made relating to the arson attack to date.
The image above is from a 2012 when Salafist extremists replaced the Tunisian flag at the University of Manouba, before the flag gained worldwide recognition as the flag Islamic State.