Tunisia: Authorities Make Arrests Connected to Embassy Attacks
Khaled Tarouch, Tunisian Interior Ministry spokesman, announced that police had arrested 75 suspects in connection to the U.S. embassy attacks in Tunis. “Arrests are continuing and will include all persons with connections to the embassy attack,” he said. Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department has ordered all non-essential staff out of the country due to the increase in security concerns. A State Department spokesperson also confirmed that a travel warning had been issued for American citizens.
In related news, police surrounded al-Fatah mosque in Tunis on September 17 seeking to arrest Saif-Allah Benahssine, leader of the Tunisian branch of Ansar al-Sharia. Despite a large police presence, Benahssine was able to escape capture as hundreds of his followers stormed out of the mosque. He is wanted for the promotion of a protest at the U.S. embassy on September 14 that left four dead and another 46 injured.
Tunisian leaders are pensive about the effect last week’s demonstrations may have on economic development in the region. Tunisia lacks energy reserves and is largely dependent on foreign tourism and investment. “The economy is already in a rocky state. We have just slowly started to stand up again. Investors are still hesitant and haven’t decided if it’s safe enough and, of course, what happened will make the situation worse, ” said Mongi Boughzala, a Tunisian economist.
An article in Time analyzed the attacks on U.S. embassies throughout the Middle East. The piece suggests that the anti-Islam movie was simply the spark which set off wide-scale demonstrations. The fuel, characterized by internal political struggles like those in Tunisia, had been building up pressure for months. Washington, the author wrote, has little to no control over these battles.