Image: from a 2012 incident when Salafist extremists replaced the Tunisian flag with the Islamic State Flag at the University of Manouba.
Two suspected terrorists were arrested in Kébili by regional national guard on June 18. Media reports said the suspects belonged to a cell discovered this March after an incident in town of Zaafrane where the Tunisian flag was replaced with the Islamic State flag on the rooftop of a regional government building.
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. After the arrests of what the Ministry of the Interior described as “thirty “takfiris” (salafist extremists) after the incident in mid-March, most were released but 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 the incident.
Media sources at the time said the authorities believed ten individuals had ties to the Islamic State flag raising incident.
A statement in March from the Ministry of the Interior declared “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 raising of the Islamic State flag in Kebili came amidst extreme tension in Tunisia which had been profoundly shaken by a terrorist attack on the city of Ben Guerdane (Governorate of Medenine) near the Libyan border only four days earlier when scores of militants simultaneously attacked security personnel, a national guard office, a customs office and a military barracks.
The Tunisian authorities have stated that the unprecedented March 7 attack on Ben Guerdane was an attempt by Tunisian militants, active in Libya, to establish an Islamic State emirate in Tunisia.
Seven civilians and eleven members from several security services were killed. During the initial attack and in several violent incidents in the ensuing days as security forces searched the area to root out remaining fighters over sixty jihadists were killed.