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Tunis: ‘Terrorist’ Cell, Including Ansar al Sharia Member Involved in 2012 U.S. Embassy Attack, Dismantled

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The announced in a statement released on Tuesday, April 19, the dismantling of a five member terrorist cell in Sidi Hassine in the capital Tunis. One of the five suspects arrested, according to the Ministry statement, admitted being a member of the banned terrorist organization and took part in the 2012 attack on the U.S. Embassy and American Cooperative School in Tunis.

 

According to the same statement, and of more immediate concern, one of the suspects signalled the existence of three 'sleeper cells' in the Tunis neighborhoods of Cité Zouhour, Bardo and Jebel Lahmar.

The Tunisian authorities designated Ansar al Sharia a terrorist organization in August of 2013 after the assassinations of Chokri Belaid and Mohmamed Brahmi in in February and July of 2013, the first organization to be designated as such in post-Revolutionary Tunisia.

 

In 2014, Ansar al Sharia's Tunisia and it two Libyan wings in Benghazi and Dernah were designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) by the U.S. .

 

The following is from the U.S. State Department Bureau of Counterterrorism's Country Reports on Terrorism 2014, an annual reported presented to the U.S. Congress.

 

Ansar al-Shari’a in Tunisia (AAS-T)
aka Al-Qayrawan Media Foundation; Supporters of Islamic Law; Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia; Ansar al-Shari’ah; Ansar al-Shari’ah in Tunisia; Ansar al-Sharia

 

Description: Designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on January 13, 2014, Ansar al-Shari’a in Tunisia (AAS-T) was founded by Specially Designated Global Terrorist Seif Allah Ben Hassine in early 2011. AAS-T has been implicated in attacks against Tunisian security forces, assassinations of Tunisian political figures, and attempted suicide bombings of locations that tourists frequent. AAS-T has also been involved in recruiting youth in Tunisia for fighting in Syria.

 

Activities: Ansar al-Shari’a in Tunisia was involved in the September 14, 2012 attack against the U.S. Embassy and American school in Tunis, which threatened the safety of over one hundred U.S. employees in the Embassy. In February and July 2013, AAS-T members were implicated in the assassination of two Tunisian politicians, Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi. In October 2013, AAS-T attempted to carry out suicide attacks against two tourist sites in Tunisia. The first attack took place when a bomber blew himself up outside a hotel in Sousse, Tunisia, resulting in no other fatalities. On the same day, police prevented a suicide bombing in Monastir, Tunisia, when they arrested a would-be bomber at the Tomb of Habib Bourguiba.
Throughout 2014, Tunisian security forces continued to clash with AAS-T members.

Strength: Unknown
Location/Area of Operation: Tunisia and Libya
Funding and External Aid: Unknown