Tunisia reinforces deployment in desert region against spillover of Mali conflictsSouce:Xinhua Publish By Thomas Whittle Updated 29/01/2013 8:54 am in World / 1 comment
TUNIS, Jan. 28 — The Tunisian army has taken precautionary measures to protect the desert region for fear of a possible spillover of Mali’s conflicts to Tunisia, local Radio Tatatouine reported Monday citing the region’s governor Mourad Achour.
It is estimated that some 3,000 Tunisian soldiers have been deployed in Tunisia’s Sahara region, traditionally a zone of drug smuggling, but increasingly an area of arms smuggling since the Libyan upheaval.
The decision to reinforce the army’s presence in this area was taken following a tripartite meeting earlier this month between Tunisia’s Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, his Algerian counterpart Abdelmalek Sellal and Libya’s Prime Minister Ali Zidane, the report said.
On Sunday, Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki, participating in the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, called on African countries to adopt a common anti-terrorist strategy to help avert possible consequences of the war in Mali on civilians.
Marzouki also called for an end to foreign military intervention in Mali and a political solution to the conflict.
Recently, Tunisian security forces discovered two warehouses full of weapons, including ground to air missiles in the southern town of Medenine, reinforcing fears that the country might serve as a transit corridor for weapons from Libya to Mali through Algeria.
Analysts said that Tunisian authorities are worried that an increasing number of Tunisians are joining radical movements in Syria, Yemen and Mali.
In recent Algerian hostage crisis, in which militants ruthlessly hijacking more than 800 people including foreigners at Algeria’s gas plant of In Amenas, 11 out of the 39 attackers were Tunisians.
Moreover, hundreds of young Tunisian Salafists have also joined the ranks of Ansar El Shaaria in northern Mali where France, in collaboration with Mali’s army and African forces, has launched a major military operation to expel Islamic militants from the African country, according to Tunisian media reports.