Bardo attack forces Tunisian security rethink

Bardo attack forces Tunisian security rethink
Analysis: As tourism season begins in Tunisia, the government is trying to minimise the damage of Wednesday's terror attack with a tightening of security inside and around the capital.
4 min read
21 March, 2015
Tunisians are bringing the country back to normality after the shock of Wednesday's attack [Anadolu]
The Tunisian government has now gone into damage-assessment mode.

Politicians are attempting to assign responsibilities as the initial shock of the terrorist attack on the Bardo Museum on Wednesday subsides.

Beyond the economic fallout, particularly for the tourism industry, the security implications of the attack are the focus of the most important questions being raised. There is near consensus that a number of loopholes allowed for the catastrophe.

'Security breach'

Abdelfattah Mourou, the first deputy chairman of the Tunisian parliament, said the security personnel in charge of protecting the parliament building, which is adjacent to the museum, were at a coffee shop at the time of the attack.

Mourou denounced what he termed as a "major breach" of security protocol.

The Tunisian government is determined to reassess its security policy and the hierarchy of its security services. The government reportedly wants to review and reform the security services at all levels - intelligence, administrative, and operational.

Multiple reports indicate a number of security leaders in Tunis will be replaced. This will likely include the entire security team at the Bardo Museum. New leaders will be appointed in a number of other Tunisian cities, according to reports.

Tunisia's president, Beji Caid Essebsi, and Prime Minister Habib Essid have ordered an investigation into the causes and mistakes that allowed the Bardo attack to take place.

The Tunisian judiciary has already started exposing a number of security and judicial blunders. For instance, one of the attackers, Yassin al-Obeidi, had been previously arrested but was released due to lack of evidence.

Meanwhile, security services from the ministry of interior and the Tunisian army have been redeployed at the entrances of major cities, particularly in the capital and downtown Tunis, including in the Lafayette district.

This is the location of Tunisia's main radio and television stations, which received threats after the Bardo attack. Measures were also taken to protect tourist sites, ports, airports, and sensitive public institutions.
     Tunisia's main radio and television stations received threats after the Bardo attack.

Cordon on the capital

The security services want to tighten their cordon around the capital and limit the movement of armed groups from Mount Chambi or Libya.

The perpetrators of the Bardo attack had apparently trained in Libya, according to ministry of interior official Rafik Chelli.

The United States has offered to assist Tunisia in the investigations. White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said US counter-terrorism adviser Lisa Monaco had called her counterpart in Tunisia to offer assistance.

In a statement, the White House said US President Barack Obama, in a phone conversation with the Tunisian president, renewed his commitment to robust cooperation in counter-terrorism and security with the government of Tunisia.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told the Bundestag on Thursday that her government would do everything in its power to help Tunisia. On Friday, French interior minister Bernard Kaznov travelled to Tunisia to offer logistical help with security.

The Tunisian prime minister also said a number of countries had expressed their readiness to make emergency equipment available.

It seems the country cannot afford to wait long for previously ordered military equipment. Fighter aircraft ordered from the United States are due to be delivered in 2017.

Tunisia expects the international community will provide rapid logistical support, especially in relation to securing the border with Libya.

This will require funds of up to $100 million, according to some estimates, in addition to equipment that can be used to track anyone attempting to infiltrate the border at night.

Tunisia's frontiers with Algeria and Libya are notably porous, and armed groups have frequently used the cover of night to slip into or out of the country.

The Islamic State group has recently made threats against Tunisia, while experts warn the group has, in essence, declared war on the North African country and speculate it may intend to activate "sleeper cells".

Several religious and political extremists have been arrested across several Tunisian cities after celebrations were held in the wake of the Bardo attack.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.