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Rights group: Islamist government in Tunisia ignoring Al Qaida attacks

Special to WorldTribune.com

WASHINGTON — Tunisia has been accused of ignoring increasing attacks
by the Al Qaida-inspired Salafist movement.

A leading U.S. watchdog said Tunisia’s new Islamist government has
failed to investigate a series of Salafist assaults on secular opponents in
2012. Human Rights Watch said the Salafists have attacked students,
journalists and opposition activists without fear of prosecution.

Security forces stand guard outside Nessma TV station in Tunis, which was under attack by Salafists protesting the screening of the movie “Persepolis”, an animated film on Iran’s Islamic revolution.  /AFP

“The failure of Tunisian authorities to investigate these attacks
entrenches the religious extremists’ impunity and may embolden them to commit more violence,” HRW deputy director Joe Stork said.

In a statement on Oct. 15, the New York-based organization said Tunisia, a leading Arab ally of the United States, has not prosecuted anybody for the Salafist attacks. HRW said six complaints were filed to police over the last year.

“In all six cases the victims filed complaints at the police stations
immediately after the assault, in most cases identifying the attackers,” HRW said. “As far as Human Rights Watch has been able to determine, police have not arrested any of the alleged attackers or initiated formal investigations or prosecutions against them.”

The Salafist movement, which calls for the imposition of Islamic law,
appeared soon after the ousting of Tunisian President Zein Abidine Bin Ali
in January 2011. The movement has been linked to attacks on universities,
festivals and the U.S. embassy in Tunis in September.

“The attackers have behaved violently and used weapons such as swords,
clubs, and knives to prevent festivals or celebrations and have beaten
people, apparently for their ideas, dress or activity,” HRW said.

On Oct. 14, the U.S. embassy in Tunis called on Tunis to arrest and
prosecute those responsible for the Sept. 14 attack. U.S. ambassador Jacob
Walles said “violent extremists” torched more than 100 vehicles of embassy
staffers and caused millions of dollars in damage to the compound.

“The Tunisian government has an obligation to provide security for its
citizens and its guests — and I call on the government of Tunisia to carry
through with its investigation and to bring the perpetrators and masterminds
of this attack to justice,” Walles said. “I also look to the Tunisian people
to speak out against violence and terror and to play an active role in
shaping the future you so richly deserve.”

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