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ANSAR AL-SHARIA IN TUNISIA

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There are several Jihadi groups, inspired by Al Qaeda, who call themselves Ansar Al-Sharia (Soldiers of Islamic law). The most notorious is Ansar al-Sharia in Yemen.

Following the Tunisian Jasmine Revolution, in 01/2011, many Islamist political prisoners held by the regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali were released, including Abu Ayadh al-Tunisi, who had previously co-founded the Tunisian Combat Group with Tarek Maaroufi in 06/2000.

Abu Ayadh founded Ansar Al-Sharia in late 04/2011. The group quickly established a media branch, al-Qairawan Media Foundation, and developed different media outlets including a blog, Facebook page, and a magazine.

Ansar Al-Sharia has campaigned for the release of Islamist prisoners, such as Omar Abdel Rahman, Abu Qatada and Tunisians who had fought with Al Qaeda in Iraq and are held in Iraqi jails.

Ansar Al-Sharia held a national conference at Kairouan in 2012 in which Abu Ayadh called for the Islamization of Tunisia’s media, education, tourism and commercial sectors, and the establishment of an Islamic trade union to confront the secular Tunisian General Labor Union.

Members of Ansar al-Sharia have regularly taken part in protests in Tunisia against perceived blasphemy and have been suspected in involvement in a number of violent incidents, but little evidence has been presented and the organization has not been banned. Amongst the incidents are attacks on a television station that showed the movie Persepolis in 10/2011, attacks on a controversial art exhibit in 06/2012 and an attack on the US embassy in 10/2012, Simultaneously with the attack on USA Consulate in Benghazi (see – AQ-Benghazi Raid), initially attributed to the screening, in USA, of the movie “Innocence Of Muslims
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Tunisia has designated, on 08/26/2013, Ansar Al-Sharia movement a “terrorist group”, blaming it for the killing of two secular politicians: Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi. The Tunisian security forces are battling Ansar Al-Sharia forces in the remote Mount Chaambi region, along the Algerian border after 8 Tunisian Soldiers were ambushed and killed in the region, on 07/29/2013.

Ansar Al-Sharia’s deputy leader Mohammed al-Awadi, said to be the group’s military commander, along with Mohamed Khiari on the outskirts of the capital Tunis, the interior ministry said on 09/09/2013.
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* Tunisia’s state media reported, on  12/03/2013, that U.S. and Libyan forces had captured the Islamist leader Abu Ayadh al-Tunisi .  American involvement in an operation on Libyan soil would be highly sensitive and  USA  officially denied  rol in the arrest. 

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