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Terror In Tunisia: Competition Between ISIS And Al Qaeda To Blame?

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Two Islamist militants opened fire in the Bardo National Museum in Tunisia’s capital city, killing 19, according to Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid.

Victims include 17 foreign tourists, one Tunisian and one police officer. Polish, Italian, German and Spanish tourists were among the dead, according to Agence France-Presse.

The assailants were also killed during the rescue operation, according to local reports.

Tunisia is a tourism-oriented country with a number of soft targets, says Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

“It’s uniquely vulnerable to jihadist attacks,” said Gartenstein-Ross.

Regional competition between al-Qaida and the Islamic State might have stoked the attack, he said. Boko Haram, an Islamist militant group in Nigeria, declared allegiance to the Islamic State recently.

In Tunisia’s jihadi circles, “al-Qaida has pull at the leadership level, but ISIS is having a greater pull at foot soldier level,” said Gartenstein-Ross.

The jihadi perpetrators, although yet unnamed, may have intended for the Tunisian security services to expand in this area in order for them to gain ground in western and southern parts of the country.

After the Tunisian revolution in 2011, Salafi jihadis were able to openly proselytize in Tunisia, says Gartenstein-Ross. They began targeting the state, activities reaching their apex in 2013. After an attack against soldiers in the western part of the country, followed by the murder of secular politicians, the Tunisian government cracked down.

Ansar al-Sharia, the country’s main jihadi group, was declared a terrorist organization in 2013. Since the tightening of security procedures, largely seen as successful, attacks have only been on the periphery.

similar attack on a Tunisian tourist destination occurred when a man carrying explosives attempted to attack a hotel in Sousse in 2013. But after being denied entry, the man ran to an empty beach and blew himself up. No one else was injured in the explosion.

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