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Tunisia - Security Situation

Tunisia has open borders with Libya and Algeria. Porous borders and the increased availability of weapons from post-Qaddhafi Libya jeopardize Tunisian security. Violence in neighboring countries has the propensity to spill over into Tunisia, as it did in 2011 when Libyans crossed the border and briefly engaged Tunisias Armed Forces. Arms from the Libyan conflict, available on the regional black market, support the reprehensible activities of criminals and pro-Salafist groups.

Nearby conflict and chaos have resulted in other problems as well. Tunisia is a country of origin, destination, and transit for human-trafficking due to its proximity to Europe and various African trouble spots. Tunisian smuggling and human- trafficking networks have been especially busy during regional unrest and are adaptable to a range of illicit purposes. In contrast to the prior governments tendency to ignore the trafficking activity, the interim government drafted laws to combat the problem.

Regional terrorist groups like al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and others in Mali, Algeria, and elsewhere threaten Tunisias security. Several Tunisian nationals involved in terrorist activities abroad have turned their attention to Tunisia with the goal of spreading Islamic law . In summer 2013, the government declared the Tunisian Salafist group Ansar al-Sharia a terrorist organization after it had violent clashes with the Armed Forces. Members of this and other suspected extremist groups have been arrested since 2011. In 2015, Tunisia experienced 3 acts of terrorism; ISIL claimed responsibility for the attacks. In addition to jeopardizing Tunisias internal security, increased terrorist activities could undermine tourism and foreign investment.

Al-Qaida in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of two Austrian tourists on the Tunisia-Algeria border in late February 2008. The two Austrians had been driving a four-wheel-drive vehicle in the southern desert and did not follow government-mandated travel precautions. There have been no further incidents, but reports of a ransom having been paid for the Austrians' release could lead to further instances of Western tourists or residents being targeted for ransom. AQIM is designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, and the presence of AQIM in North Africa presents potential dangers to travelers. During late 2002 and early 2003, a number of tourists, several of whom crossed into Algeria from Tunisia, were kidnapped in the Sahara desert areas of southeastern Algeria. Travelers should remain particularly alert in areas near the Algerian border. Please see the section below on Traffic Safety and Road Conditions for more information about traveling in the desert.

In mid-2008, there were reports of disturbances in communities in the south of Tunisia near the Algerian border. While these disturbances appear to be triggered by economic concerns, and not directed toward Western tourists, travelers in these areas are urged to remain alert to local security developments and to be vigilant regarding their personal security.

Small demonstrations occur occasionally on university campuses and typically protest fee increases, salary levels for professors, and administrative policies. Other politically motivated demonstrations are rarely allowed but do break out occasionally on or around university campuses. These activities are not considered a threat to Tunisia's stability and have not targeted U.S. interests. There were a number of peaceful demonstrations in June 2010 to protest Israeli actions off the coast of Gaza. In early 2009, the conflict in Gaza prompted a strong reaction leading to many demonstrations in Tunis and throughout the country. It is best to avoid all demonstrations, as even peaceful ones can quickly become unruly and a foreigner could become a target of harassment or worse.

Government security forces, including the police and National Guard, are visibly present throughout Tunisia. Travelers should heed directions given by uniformed security officials, and are encouraged to always carry a copy of their passport as proof of nationality and identity. Security personnel, including plainclothes officials, may at times place foreign visitors under surveillance. It is against Tunisian law to photograph government offices and other security facilities.

There have been no instances in which U.S. citizens or facilities in Tunisia have been subject to terrorist attacks. However, in January 2007, Tunisian security forces announced the disruption of a terrorist group they believe intended to attack targets including the U.S. Embassy in Tunis. On April 11, 2002, Al-Qaida terrorists used a truck bomb to attack a synagogue on the Tunisian island of Djerba and a number of Western tourists were killed. Tunisian nationals have been involved in international terrorism, and international terrorist organizations have on multiple occasions called for attacks in North Africa, including Tunisia. There have also been reported threats to tourist facilities. The December 2007 sentencing of 30 Tunisian individuals for terrorist-related activities in December 2006-January 2007 may also encourage anti-Western sentiment or reactions toward the Government of Tunisia.



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