Algerian tourists return to Tunisia

Cars with brass yellow license plates from Algeria are once again roaming the streets of Tunis and coastal cities.

The Tunisian tourism ministry has been monitoring the return of Algerian tourists after the end of Ramadan on August 8th. Their numbers are below expectations compared to 2010. Back then, 7 million Algerian tourists visited the country, according to statistics National Office of Tunisian Tourism (ONTT) statistics.

The number of Algerian tourists dropped by 28% and the number of arrivals to the Tunisian territory did not exceed 29,000 people before July 10th, according to tourism figures.

unknown photographer

unknown photographer

Tourism Minister Jamel Gamra paid a visit to the city of Tabarka along the Algerian border on July 16th, where he met a group of Algerian journalists and operators in the sector.

Gamra sought to reassure the Algerians that what was taking place in Jebel Chaambi was under control: “What is certain is that the phenomenon has been limited to the area of Jebel Chaambi and that it did not affect security in the rest of the region.”

“Security authorities have worked in collaboration with Algeria to neutralise terrorists in Jebel Chaambi,” Gamra told Echorouk. “The authorities took maximum measures and pre-emptive steps to ensure the security of its visitors.”

The interior ministry has also been holding training sessions with hotel staff about safety and emergency response all the while ensuring a comfortable stay for tourists, Gamra added.

Algerian tourists expressed confidence about the way authorities are handling the security situation.

“In the beginning, news about the security situation in Tunisia were not reassuring, especially for those like me who have to cross the border on their own cars,” Algerian tourist Mourad Qallala told Magharebia. “We arrived safely and roads adjacent to the borders were protected. We will spend the rest of the summer in Tunisia, which has been our favourite destination for years.”

Newlywed Tariq Ajaj, who is spending his honeymoon in Tunisia, complained about congestion at the border crossing and the multiple security checks: “This is acceptable if we know the threats that our brothers in Tunisia are facing. We in Algeria have tasted the bitterness of terrorism and we hope that Tunisia overcomes this ordeal.”

“At this time of the year my restaurant was extremely active until the wee hours,” Tunis restaurant owner Mokhtar Ben Jannet said. “The majority of my clients are Algerians, but because of the recent news about terrorism, the number of Algerian clients declined.”

“I understand their decision,” Ben Jannet added. “They have suffered from the scourge of terrorism.”

Gamra told the Algerian media that his government is planning to expand border crossings and develop roads leading to them.

“We allocated a budget of 300,000 dinars to expand the Melloula border crossing in order to accommodate a thousand tourists a day,” he said.

The project is expected to be launched next month, the parking lot will be expanded and the crossing border office will be equipped with air conditioning and chairs, he added.

The waiting time at the border crossing will be reduced to a maximum of 10 minutes, according to the minister.



Tunisia, Algeria join hands against terrorism

By Jamel Arfaoui in Tunis for Magharebia

Tunisia and Algeria are working together to eliminate terrorist groups holed up along their shared border.

The Tunisian army has launched a series of attacks in the remote Jebel Chaambi area, while Algeria lined up 10,000 soldiers to monitor the borders and prevent terrorists from escaping the siege.

“The exchange of information between Tunisian and Algerian agencies about the movements of terrorists is very important to the success of the operation,” former defence ministry spokesperson Brigadier-General Mokhtar Ben Nasr said.

Friday night, three terrorists from Jebel Chaambi were killed after crossing the border into Algeria following an exchange of fire that lasted nearly an hour, El Khabar reported.

The terrorists, all Tunisian, were killed north of Bir El Ater. The army would have preferred to capture them alive to obtain more information on the terrorist group hiding in Jebel Chaambi, according the daily.

The Tunisian army also killed 10 terrorists in Jebel Chaambi and arrested three others in the region of Ouled Nasrallah, Kasserine province. A fourth terrorist was seriously wounded in the operation.

On Friday, the army launched a major assault on Jebel Chaambi, where eight soldiers were slaughtered days earlier by al-Qaeda-linked extremists.

“A group of security and intelligence officers from Tunisia and Algeria began the investigation about the activity of terrorist groups across the land border between the two countries,” El Khabar reported on Saturday (August 3rd).

“The on-going operations will be launched in phases on the ground and from the air,” the Algerian daily said. “Tunisian forces will be thrice the forces that participated in the sweeping of the area in the spring of this year, in addition to at least 4,000 Algerian military forces.”

Tunisian and Algerian intelligence services want to know whether al-Qaeda allies Movement for Tawhid and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) has moved from Mali to Tunisia, security expert Kais Ouerghi said.

“It is not unlikely,” Ouerghi added, “that this organisation has taken the Libyan city of Derna as a rear base.”

“They have the best equipment with the proliferation of weapons in Libya after the fall of the Kadhafi regime. This includes weapons of various sizes, including anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles,’ he added.

The Tunisian foreign ministry has confirmed “bilateral co-operation and continuous field security co-ordination between Tunisia and all countries in the region, especially our sister country Algeria”.

“This is due to the volume of joint security challenges before us today and the gravity of the implications for the stability of our countries,” the ministry said last Friday.

Many social network pages are adorned with both Tunisian and Algerian flags in reference to the security co-operation between the two countries in the fight against terrorism.

“The Algerian flag is dear to all Tunisians, and we will not forget this favour,” Sana Wahaibi, a student in her twenties, said.

“There is a shared history between Tunisia and Algeria. They are proud of it as much as we are,” housewife Soumia Hanashi added.


Tunisia presses hunt for jihadists

August 3 2013

Tunis –

Tunisia’s army pressed ahead on Saturday with operations against Islamists in a remote mountain range after a deadly ambush on its troops heightened a crisis sparked by a political assassination.

The authorities kept a tight lid on the overland and helicopter raids launched on Friday in the Mount Chaambi area near the border with Algeria where Islamist militants including veterans of a revolt in northern Mali are suspected to be hiding out.

Eight Tunisian soldiers were found in the area on Monday with their throats cut after being ambushed by militants.

The interior ministry, meanwhile, said a “religious extremist” was killed and another wounded in two separate incidents while handling explosives.

And police said a suspect package was found in Tunis warning security forces to withdraw from Mount Chaambi.

The coalition government led by moderate Islamic movement Ennahda has acknowledged that the country faces a growing threat of terrorism, although it has yet to issue a call for the public to remain vigilant.

On the political front, a compromise still eluded opponents and supporters of the government in their efforts to defuse a crisis triggered by the July 25 assassination of opposition figure Mohamed Brahmi that has been blamed on jihadists.

Opposition parties have called on the government to step down but failed to draw up a united stand on policy.

Ennahda insists on its legitimacy to govern based on the last elections in October 2011.

Both sides in the political stand-off staged daily demonstrations over the past week, with Ennahda sending out calls for a mass solidarity rally in the capital’s Kasbah Square from 9pm (20.00 GMT) on Saturday.

The government’s critics say it has failed to rein in radical Islamists, who have grown in influence and stand accused of a wave of attacks since the 2011 uprising which toppled long-time president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Since Brahmi’s death – the second political slaying after leftist leader Chokri Belaid was gunned down in February – around 60 politicians have pulled out of the National Constituent Assembly that is drawing up Tunisia’s long-delayed new constitution.

Tunisian authorities have pointed to links between the Chaambi militants, the assassins of Brahmi and Belaid and Tunisia’s main Salafist organisation Ansar al-Sharia, which denies the accusation. – Sapa-AFP


Strengthening ties in the African Initiative

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s four-day official trip to North African countries Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia will be an opportunity for Turkey to bolster its policy of opening up to the African continent, experts agree.

“These three North African countries are of great importance for Turkey in its engagement policy with the continent,” Cahit Tuz, Middle East adviser in the Turkish Parliament, said in remarks to Today’s Zaman.


Recovering of the Injured Soldiers from the Jebel Chaami

Jebel Chaambi heroes describe border horror

Mourad Zaidi is looking at his future through one eye. “I wonder what I’ll do after I leave hospital,” the young Tunisian commando officer says.

Everything went dark on May 8th, when Mourad was on a special mission in the Jebel Chaami region, near the Algeria border. His unit was hunting terrorists from the Uqba Ibn Nafaa brigade, a gang tied to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Standoff of banned congress in two towns Tunisia

Analysis: Crackdown on radical Islamists tests Tunisia’s stability

TUNIS | Thu May 23, 2013 1:15am EDT

(Reuters) – For the first time since the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011, relations between mainstream Islamists in government and radical Salafist Muslim activists have reached breaking point, sparking deadly clashes in two Tunisian cities.

Militancy in the Tunisien maghreb

Tunisia teeters as it grapples with jihadists

21 May, 2013

TUNIS, Tunisia, May 21 (UPI) — Tunisia, cradle of the Arab Reawakening in January 2011, has finally got tough with its hard-line Islamists as, like other North African states that overthrew longtime dictators, it finds itself struggling with the fallout of its groundbreaking pro-democracy uprising.