Sunday, July 12, 2015

12-Jul-15: In confronting terror, Tunisia's government tells visitors to trust them and ignore the advisories

Poster in Tunisian booth at a March 2011 international tourism show,
in Berlin [Image Source: "Tunisia sees tourists return 
after revoltReuters, 2012]
If there are tourists from the UK - or from anywhere - still intent on taking their holidays in Tunisia, there are a few things we feel they ought to know. Let's start with a British news report published on Friday:
Britain's advice that tourists should leave Tunisia because of the risk of another terror attack will "have repercussions", the country's prime minister has said. Habib Essid said he would telephone David Cameron on Friday to respond to Foreign Office advice that the North African nation was unsafe for holidays. Tunisia's ambassador to London has already warned Britain is playing into the hands for terrorists with the new threat warning, which is likely to devastate the Tunisian tourist industry. Mr Essid said: "We will ring the British prime minister to tell him we have done everything we can to protect all British interests and those of others countries - that's our duty."
"Britain is free to take whatever decision it likes - it's a sovereign country - but we too are a sovereign country and we have a position to take."
He did not elaborate on what that position might be but he told politicians that the British decision would "have repercussions." [Tunisia backlash against Britain as PM warns of terror 'repercussions' | The Independent UK | July 10, 2015]
    Britain is not alone in issuing travel advisories:
      "Tunisia's Prime Minister has said his country cannot defeat terrorism without foreign support. Habib Essid confirmed that the gunman who murdered 38 tourists on a beach in the resort of Sousse - including three Irish people and 30 British - did not act alone." [Irish Examiner, July 11, 2015]
      The Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a travel advisory for Serbian citizens, warning them to "abstain from travel to Tunisia." [Tanjug, July 10, 2015]
      The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has not upgraded its risk rating for New Zealanders in Tunisia after a terrorist attack near Sousse... An MFAT spokesperson said the ministry had updated its travel advisory in light of the attack but there were no changes in the analysed level of risk to travel there. The "significant threat" of terrorism in Tunisia meant there was still "some risk" for security, MFAT said... Further attacks could not be ruled out, particularly in large cities and popular tourist destinations, MFAT warned on its website. [New Zealand Herald, June 30, 2015]
      On the other hand
      According to the State Department website, the US has issued no specific warnings since the attack. On Saturday afternoon, a map on the website of the French foreign ministry ranked the terrorist threat in Tunisia below that in Libya, Algeria and parts of Egypt. A spokesman confirmed that France had not called on its nationals to leave Tunisia, reiterating advice that travellers should be “particularly vigilant”. [From an opinion piece in Independent UK, July 12, 2015]
      Still, we think anyone with Tunisian plans ought to take a close look at some of the background, as viewed via the lens of some recent posts on this blog:
      • "26-Jun-15: A month of disasters for the infidels on at least three continents and that's just today"
        Extract: In Tunisia, gunmen opened fire at a beach resort, killing at least 27 people, officials said. At least one of the attackers was killed by security forces...
      • "03-May-15: Israel sees concrete signs of a terror threat in Tunisia while the government there says it's actually nothing"
        Extract: The Tunisian government on Saturday shrugged off a warning from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel had learned of "concrete threats" of terror attacks against Jewish or Israeli targets in the Arab country... A senior official in the Tunisian interior ministry told Agence France-Presse that no such threats existed. "We have nothing on that. There are no threats," the unnamed official said... And for the record, we don't plan to include Tunisia in any upcoming travel.
      • "19-Mar-15: In Tunisia, terrorists target tourists... again" 
        Extract: 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... The new Tunisian prime minister, Habib Essid, who took office last month... urged "national unity", calling the massacre “the first operation of its kind ever to occur in Tunisia”. 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.  
      Beyond the bluster, the assurances and the threats, some Tunisians are dealing with the serious commercial fall-out from the collapse of their tourism industry via some in-your-face marketing:

      The images are deliberately provocative, according to Selim Ben Hadj Yahia, managing director of Ramdam, an agency based in Tunis... The campaign – which was not endorsed by the Tunisian Ministry of Tourism – was not created for an agency client or for profit. Mr Hadj Yahia – whose work usually focuses on political crisis communications rather than tourism – said that his intention was rather to convey hope and willingness: “We are the only country in the region building a true democracy and we will succeed at whatever cost.”
      There's no doubt that pride, hope, willingness are all great motivators. But Tunisia has serious Islamist terrorism problems on its hands. Underscoring this, a BBC report on Friday, quoting AP, said Tunisian forces had killed  an additional five "suspected Islamist militants" in what it called an ongoing operation. Another British source [Independent UK, July 11, 2015] calls them "suspected jihadists":
      Security forces killed the men yesterday during a counter-terrorism operation near the town of El Ktar in Gafsa governate. The alleged extremists were reportedly found with four Kalashnikovs, the same weapon used by beach gunman Seifeddine Rezgui, a pistol, two grenades, several mobile phones, documents and a large sum of cash... [But] Philip Hammond, the [British] Foreign Secretary, appeared to criticise Tunisian counter-terrorism efforts in his statement... “While we are working with the Tunisian authorities to further strengthen those measures, we judge that more work is needed to effectively protect tourists from the terrorist threat.”
      Tunisia's reluctance to be open about such matters is likely to tell very heavily in their efforts to stay in close touch with the civilized world and its travelers. As we keep saying here, being wrong about terrorism comes at a terribly high price.

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