Issued by CEMO Center - Paris
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Djerba Island attack: Terrorism strikes city of peaceful coexistence in Tunisia

Saturday 20/May/2023 - 06:13 PM
The Reference
Aya Ezz


On a dark night, the sounds of bullets and screams penetrated the calm of Tunisia’s Djerba Island, which is a symbol of coexistence between Muslims, Christians and Jews.

The island witnessed a horrific terrorist attack near the El Ghriba Synagogue, one of the oldest and largest synagogues in Africa, killing five people and wounding 13 others.

According to the statement of the Tunisian Ministry of Interior, the perpetrator of the attack was a member of the National Guard named Adel Ben Ammar, who killed his colleague using his individual weapon and seized ammunition, then tried to reach the vicinity of the temple and fired indiscriminately at the security units stationed there, who confronted him and killed him.

The statement added that the victims of the attack included three security personnel and two visitors, one of them French, while eight security personnel and five civilians were wounded.

The ministry confirmed that the synagogue and its property were cordoned off, and all those inside and outside the temple were secured, while investigations are continuing to uncover the motives and background of this attack.

No party has claimed responsibility for this attack so far, but some security sources suggested that the attacker was influenced by takfirist thought or linked to terrorist networks.

Some reports also indicated that the attacker was suffering from mental disorders.

This attack brings to mind the 2002 attack on the same synagogue, which was carried out by a truck bomb, killing 21 people, most of them German tourists.


Setback for peaceful coexistence

For his part, Tunisian political analyst Samir Rayan said that this attack represents a setback for coexistence between Muslims and Jews in Tunisia, which is a rare example in the Arab world. Djerba Island was home to the oldest Jewish synagogue in Africa and a symbol of tolerance and coexistence between religions, where the relationship between Muslims and Jews was based on dialogue, respect and cultural exchange.

Rayan explained to the Reference that this attack threatens to destabilize society and affect tourism and the economy. Therefore, it is important for the Tunisian authorities to take all necessary measures to protect citizens and visitors from any future attacks, to reveal the circumstances of the attack and the parties responsible for it, and to preserve the spirit of brotherhood and solidarity among the Tunisian people.


Political crisis may be a reason

Meanwhile, political activist Shoaib El-Azizi explained that there may be some relationship between the political crisis in Tunisia and the terrorist attack in Djerba, although this cannot be proven conclusively. It is known that Tunisia has been going through a political crisis since 2011, as it witnessed frequent government changes and conflicts between parties and institutions.

Azizi pointed out to the Reference that the country is suffering from worsening economic, social and health crises, especially following the outbreak of the corona pandemic, and all these factors may have helped create a climate of resentment, frustration and anger among some groups, which extremist parties may exploit to destabilize security and stability in the country.

“Therefore, resolving the political crisis in Tunisia requires a comprehensive and transparent national dialogue between all concerned parties, and carrying out constitutional, legal and administrative reforms that achieve consensus and balance between authorities and ensure respect for citizens' rights and democracy,” he continued.

“It is not possible to be certain that the Brotherhood is a party to this attack, but there are some indications that point to a link between them and the terrorist groups that are active in Tunisia. The Tunisian Ministry of Interior has accused a number of Ennahda leaders of communicating against the country's security in favor abroad and of being involved in terrorist crimes,” he said, adding, “The Brotherhood is also trying to exploit the difficult political, economic and health conditions in Tunisia to destabilize and confuse the authorities.”

Azizi stressed that some investigations have shown that there are financial and logistical relations between the Ennahda movement and some terrorist organizations such as the Uqba bin Nafi Battalion and Jund al-Khilafah. Therefore, combating terrorism in Tunisia requires confronting the Brotherhood’s role in supporting, financing and inciting these groups.