What are ISIS doing in Tunisia?
ISIS formally claimed responsibility for the appalling lone wolf attack in Tunisia carried out by Seifeddine Rezgui aka Abu Yahya Qayrawani in a statement released on Saturday.
Qayrawani committed the atrocity 4 days after the ISIS spokesman Al Adnani said “make this a month of victories…a month of disasters, defeats and disgrace for the kuffar everywhere.” In the same briefing he called for Ramadan attacks and to “make it a month of fire for the kuffar” (The kuffar are un-believers).
Just before ISIS placed a blackout on their social media activity a senior figure messaged that the attack in Tunisia was more than just a “Revenge” attack, it’s part of a bigger plan laid for Tunisia” and went on to suggest “it’ll change the shape of whole Maghreb” and as of Saturday afternoon the ISIS social media accounts fell silent.
Vasco Amador from Global Risk Awareness who monitor ISIS social media said “It is not unusual for ISIS to silence their social media traffic after issuing a statement claiming responsibility for a major event. They very carefully control how their members use social media and what messages go out.“
ISIS has continued their expansion across North Africa with groups in Egypt and then Libya swearing their allegiance to the ISIS leader Al Baghdadi. The sending of Sheikh Turki al-Binali, AKA Abu Sufyan al-Sulami, a 30 year old hardline extremist cleric, who is the Mufti of ISIS to head the development of ISIS in Libya reinforced the importance of Libya and their “North African” campaign.
Of all of the foreign fighters with ISIS, it is believed that Tunisians make up the third largest national grouping. This means that there will be a significant core of supporters in Tunisia who have either returned form fighting, have family members or friends who are fighting or are part of the recruitment structure sending fighters to ISIS.
ISIS tactics are to cause destabilisation, reinforce radicalism and then get groups to align themselves to ISIS. This destabilisation in the Middle East is focused on creating and reinforcing a Sunni, Shia rift and then exploiting the fall out and unrest that causes.
Their attack on the Imam Saddiq Shia mosque in al-Sawabir area near the Kuwaiti capital on the same day as the attack in Tunisia was almost certainly part of this campaign following on from May 22 ISIS attack against a Shia mosque in Saudi Arabia. Aimen Dean, a terrorism expert based in Dubai said “I believe, further attacks of this kind will target the four GCC countries most active in the campaign against ISIS in Syria: Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait.
So far ISIS has focused on Saudi Arabia but they are looking at the sectarian powder kegs of Bahrain and Kuwait where this kind of attack could ignite street riots and thus invite a violent crackdown from both the Kuwaiti and Bahraini governments. Kuwaiti citizens from both sects are well armed, as a legacy of the weapons Saddam’s army left behind after withdrawing from Kuwait in 1991.”
Tunisia has long been on their target list as it is seen as the seat of the Arab spring. ISIS planners know Tunisia is very reliant on tourism to keep its economy going. According to James Abernethy, a former British Intelligence officer “Their approach to destabilising Tunisia is slightly different to what they are doing in Middle East countries; they aim to destroy the economy, stir civil unrest, and then exploit the ensuing political divides. Their attack on Saturday will have a devastating effect on Tunisia’s tourism industry and was likely deliberately targeted as a follow on from the 18 March attack on Bardo Museum in Tunis, the Tunisian capital.”
Both Abernethy and Dean agreed “there remains a high likelihood of further attacks against tourist areas in Tunisia and attacks into Egypt”.