Tunisia, wary of 'Islamic State' attack, bolsters Libya border

Tunisia, wary of 'Islamic State' attack, bolsters Libya border
Analysis: Tunis says it has boosted troop numbers along its border with Libya to protect against infiltration in the wake of Egyptian attacks on IS sympathisers in Sirte.
2 min read
18 February, 2015
More than a million Libyans have fled across its border with Tunisia [AFP]

Tunisia has said it has begun strengthening security on its borders with Libya and flying reconnaissance missions to protect the country and stop "terrorist infiltration".

The announcement comes days after Egypt began bombing an offshoot of the Islamic State group in the Libyan city of Sirte, to the east of Tripoli, in retaliation for the group's murder of 21 Egyptian Copts living there.

"Military units have been deployed and they are backed by units from the national guard and customs," Belhassan Oueslati, Tunisian ministry of defence spokesman, told al-Araby al-Jadeed.

"This is part of a comprehensive defence plan to cover all land and sea borders with Libya to block any threat or attempt to smuggle weapons or terrorists into the country.

"The deteriorating security situation in Libya will not pose a threat to Tunisia's security," he insisted.

He said Tunisia was monitoring airspace, but sorties had not been combative in nature.

     The deteriorating security situation in Libya will not pose a threat to Tunisia's security.
Belhassan Oueslati, ministry of defence

More than one million Libyans have entered Tunisia without visas in the four years of civil war since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi.

Many fear that those migrants have been infiltrated by armed groups preparing to strike at Tunisia.

Badra Gaaloul, the president of the International Centre for Strategic, Security and Military Studies, told al-Araby that the rise of IS sympathisers in Libya would have "clear repercussions" on Tunisia's stability.

"The murder of the Egyptians in Libya is part of the strategic plan by IS to turn attention to North Africa," she said. "The noose has been tightened around its neck in Syria and Iraq - Libya is the place that is most prepared to spread chaos, and from there the organisation can infiltrate Tunisia and activate its sleeper cells."

Gaaloul said Egypt had a right to respond to the IS murders, but said she hoped there would be no escalation of foreign intervention, "which might cause Tunisia to face some very difficult decisions".

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.