AFP
Last updated: 28 March, 2013

Qaeda-linked Salafists threaten Tunisian government

Supporters of fugitive Salafist leader Abu Iyadh, wanted over a deadly attack on the US embassy last September, threatened Thursday to topple Tunisia’s government led by moderate Islamist party Ennahda.

“To the leaders of Ennahda, if he remains restrain your sick one, otherwise he will be the target of our war to bring him down,” said a post on the Facebook page of jihadist group Ansar al-Sharia, referring to Ennahda Prime Minister Ali Larayedh.

It called on the party “to catch up… or else you will not hear our response, you will see it with your own eyes.”

Larayedh, the former interior minister who was appointed premier earlier this month after a political crisis sparked by the assassination of a leftist politician brought down the previous government, has been a thorn in the side of the Salafists.

Before forming the new government Larayedh repeatedly denounced Abu Iyadh, and told French paper Le Monde that Ansar al-Sharia’s leader was directly involved in violence and arms trafficking that was undermining Tunisia’s security.

He previously said that Abu Iyadh’s group was linked to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), after clashes in December between armed Islamists and security forces near the Algerian border left a policeman dead.

The Tunisian government has warned in recent months of jihadist groups linked to the terror network’s north African affiliate infiltrating Tunisia’s borders and trafficking weapons, notably to northern Mali.

During a brief visit to the country on Tuesday, General Carter Ham, head of US Africa Command (AFRICOM), warned that AQIM was seeking to establish a base in Tunisia.