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Britain Told it Has a Responsibility to Help Protect Tunisia from the Islamic State

Tunisia's Prime Minister, Habib Essid, has claimed that UK military action is partly to blame for the current "chaos" in neighboring Libya, blaming the instability on Western intervention there in 2011.
Photo via Mohamed Messara/EPA

One month after the world was left stunned by a bloody attack by a single gunman on a Tunisian beach resort, Britain has been told it has a responsibility to help protect the country from Islamic State (IS) militants.

Tunisia's Prime Minister, Habib Essid, has claimed that UK military action is partially to blame for the current "chaos" in neighboring Libya, blaming the instability on Western intervention in 2011 to bring down Colonel Muammar Qaddafi.


Following Qaddafi's fall, Libya descended into a multi-party civil war and its border region with Tunisia became increasingly porous. Tunisia has struggled over the past three years to maintain order as thousands of migrants have stormed crossing points and overwhelmed border guards.

In the wake of multiple attacks in his country, Essid stated that his nation has been left more vulnerable to terrorism as a result and said Britain must help Tunisia secure its border because "terrorism has no borders."

"It's a worldwide phenomenon, it doesn't just concern one country alone," he told the Independent newspaper. 

It comes after IS claimed responsibility for the Sousse beach massacre which left 38 tourists dead, including 30 from Britain. Tunisia had been criticized for lax security at tourist sites, and Britain called for all its citizens to depart in the wake of the attack.

Related: Video Emerges of Chase of Tunisia Beach Attack Gunman

The London Metropolitan Police revealed on Wednesday that there are strong links between the previous Tunisian terror attack at the Bardo Museum in the capital, Tunis, and the slayings on the beach in Sousse.

Tunisian authorities have already drawn a connection between the attacks, saying that the Sousse attacker likely trained at the same Libyan jihadi camp as the two Bardo attackers.

The assessment highlights the growing links between terrorists in the two countries, with Tunisians going to Libya to join IS. Tunisia is the leading provider of recruits to the group — 3,000 according to official numbers — and some 500 Jihadists have allegedly returned to Tunisia after fighting alongside militants in Syria.


The country has also come under increasing pressure from the Libyan IS branch, a group formed in 2014, which counts many Tunisians in its ranks. The Okba Ibn Nafaa Brigade, a group affiliated with Islamist militant organization al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is considered to be one of the most dangerous militant groups currently operating in Tunisia.

Related: Tunisia Is Building a Wall Along Libyan Border to Keep Out Terrorists

Speaking to the Independent on Thursday, Essid said the intervention against terrorists led by the UK and France had been "part of the problem."

In a warning against further military action he told the newspaper, the solution "must be a political solution."

"We are against all military intervention in Libya," he said. "We consider that the current situation is the result of the (2011) intervention, which created chaos."

"They have responsibility… Helping to fight terrorism in Tunisia means helping to defend themselves.

Essid also responded to the UK warning Britons against traveling to Tunisia, stating it has damaged the country's tourism industry.

"We have this problem of the travel warning, which we understand perfectly is the act of a sovereign state, which has a responsibility to protect its citizens. But while we didn't dispute this decision, it's had a negative impact [on the Tunisian economy]."

Last month, Tunisian security forces carried out an aggressive string of raids on suspected militants in cities around the country, arresting dozens and killing at least one.

Tunisia's parliament nearly unanimously passed a new anti-terror law on July 25 that is meant to aid the fight against militant groups. But it has provoked fears that the freedoms won in the 2011 revolution might be threatened.

A joint statement issued by eight rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch expressed concern Friday over the law's loose definition of terrorism and lengthy preventive detention provisions.

"Tunisia's new counterterrorism law imperils human rights and lacks the necessary safeguards against abuse," said the statement. "The law grants security forces broad and vague monitoring and surveillance powers."

The Associated Press contributed to this report