Tunisia’s authorities are braced for possible terrorist disruptions of the October 26th parliamentary election and the presidential poll on 3rd of November.
Military forces are on missions in the west of the country, near Algeria, where they believe Ansar Ashriaa extremists are hiding.
Eastward, neighbouring Libya also harbours threats.
Interior Ministry spokesman Mohamed Ali EL-Aroui said:
“We’ve found problems on the border with our brother country Algeria, at Mount Chaambi. We’ve arrested several terrorists in the past few days. Our raids were effective, and we also eliminated other elements. We’ve made a lot of progress in the fight against terrorism.”
Weapons and goods meant for illegal sale to fund insurgent activities are smuggled across the borders.
Pundits say that smugglers’ cooperation with armed jihadi groups has increased.
This raises dangers within the country. Experts warn that terrorist attacks would deepen polarisation between Tunisia’s Islamists and secularists.
The security crackdown is a reflection of anti-terrorist and notably middle class fears of religious extremism.
Senior government spokesman Nidhal Ourfelli described moves to strengthen the state’s presence in the border regions:
“We have re-checked control posts, including Ras Jedir, where we agreed to rehabilitate infrastructure. We are also coordinating with the army, national military police and customs.”
With the American embassy and school attacks two years ago and then opposition politicians’ assassinations last year, the Ennahda party that many refer to as moderate Islamist and that was governing then has been accused of laxism against terrorism.
Secretary General of the secularist Nidaa Tounes party Taieb Baccouhe said: “Men who were in power or who had ties to power recruited young Tunisians, exploiting poverty and social exclusion, unemployment, bribes and jihad — as if that were true jihad.”
The Ennahda party denies having supported proscribed groups, although it admits to failings during its time in government.
A party official told us he was not free to speak to us.
Ennahda Vice-President Abdelfattah Mourou said: “The Independent High Authority for Audiovisual Communication wrote to us that we are forbidden from talking to foreign media. Try not to put me in an embarrassing position, otherwise I would be punished and they’ll say, ‘that one didn’t obey the law.’”
The Nidaa Tunis party says militant groups are against Tunisia having a new constitution, a strong civil society and efficient political parties, because pluralist democratic could prove their undoing. However, the secularists insist that any government fighting terrorism must work on building trust with citizens.