Thursday, March 19, 2015

19-Mar-15: In Tunisia, terrorists target tourists... again

Evacuating victims of Wednesday's terrorist attack in Tunisia
[Image Source]
A murderous attack by terrorists in broad daylight yesterday (Wednesday) left at least 19 people killed on the streets of Tunis, the capital of Tunisia.
"They just started opening fire on the tourists as they were getting out of the buses ... I couldn't see anything except blood and the dead," the driver of a tourist coach told journalists... [Reuters, March 18, 2015]
The victims were assaulted outside the National Bardo Museum, located inside the "heavily-guarded" parliament compound. Other than two of the attackers, the dead (the numbers seem uncertain even now) are reported to be made up of 5 Japanese, 4 Italians (among hundreds from an Italian cruise ship, the Costa Fascinosa, touring the western Mediterranean), 2 Colombians, 2 Brits, 2 French, 2 Tunisians - one a civilian, one a police officer - and individuals from South Africa, Poland (perhaps 2), Australia (he may also be one of the two Colombian victims) and Spain. Dozens more were left injured, and some people are still regarded as "missing", including 14 (more or less) from the cruise ship.

The president of Tunisia says his country will now fight terrorism "without mercy", according to the BBC. Interesting to see how the BBC's notorious guidelines make it impossible for them to call yesterday's cold-blooded murders "terrorism", though their reports do freely quote other people - such as Tunisia's political leaders and security officials - using the "T" word.

Tunisia is "the Arab world’s most successful democracy" [NYTimes] having "recently completed its first free presidential elections and a peaceful rotation of political power". It's also "one of the biggest sources of foreign fighters joining the Islamic State" [NYTimes].

The new Tunisian prime minister, Habib Essid, who took office last month ["Tunisia's secular-Islamist coalition takes office", Al Ahram], said "two or three accomplices might still be at large", and urged "national unity", calling the massacre the first operation of its kind ever to occur in Tunisia

The synagogue in Djerba where a previous human bomb attack
targeted civilians, including tourists visiting Tunisia [Image Source]
The first? That's true only if we ignore (and ignore is exactly what most parts of the news media are doing) the April 11, 2002 Djerba synagogue bombing in which terrorists operating on behalf of Al Qaeda deployed a human bomb and a truck full of explosives to attack people, most of them tourists, visiting a historically-significant (and exceptionally beautiful) Tunisian synagogue. The death toll was heavy: 14 German tourists, 3 Tunisians, 2 French. 

Terrorism rarely needs a trigger. But there is speculation [here, for instance] that Wednesday's massacre is 
linked to the death of Ahmed al-Rouissi, Tunisia’s most-wanted terrorist, who had become a senior leader in Isil’s Libya group. Accused by the Tunisian government for a string of terrorist attacks in his home country, he was killed last weekend in a clash with Libyan militiamen.
Al Rouissi was one of the most wanted men in Tunisia, where he was considered the mastermind of a string of attacks carried out by the Ansar Al Shariah movement... Al Rouissi fled to Libya where he began fighting under the banner of the Daesh [ISIS] group, which already controls about a third of Syria and Iraq. Tunisia’s Interior Ministry has not confirmed Al Rouissi’s death, though the local Press has been filled with reports on the incident. [Khaleej Times, March 16, 2015]
BBC Watch has done a good job [for instance here] of tracking the history of anti-Jewish violence in Tunisia and the deaf ear and blind eye provided by the BBC.

What will be? For the optimists, there is the fact that, in the past few hours, the international community has sprung into decisive action. The U.N. Security Council last night "condemned the Bardo museum attack saying that no terrorist action can reverse the path of Tunisia toward democracy..." [Associated Press] and offering condolences to the victims. According to Xinhua (which calls the killers "terrorists" in quotation marks lest we suspect the Chinese news-agency of taking sides on such contentious matters) the UNSC "underlined the need to bring perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism to justice." 

Fierce determination of this sort (excuse our cynicism) ignores the way the UN has for years struggled with defining terrorism. Because of "a lack of consensus on the definition of this phenomenon", it has consistently failed and
"a UN Ad Hoc Committee to Eliminate Terrorism, created by the General Assembly back in December 1996, has remained deadlocked as it tries to reach agreement on a comprehensive draft convention to eliminate terrorism" [Aljazeera]
We don't know any informed sources who believe the UN is ever going to get past that problem. The consequences of its condemnation and call to action in the wake of yesterday's terrorism are unfortunately predictable.

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