Tag Archives: Tunisia

U.S. defense sec, Mark Esper arrives Tunisia on tour to North Africa.

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US Defense Secretary Mark Esper arrived Wednesday in Tunisia, his first stop on a North Africa tour where he was set to reaffirm US engagement in the Maghreb region.

As the raging conflict in neighbouring Libya has attracted foreign jihadists and world powers backing rival sides, Washington has increasingly cooperated with the Tunisian military, particularly on counter-terror operations.

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Esper was set to meet President Kais Saied and Defence Minister Ibrahim Bartagi before delivering a speech at the North Africa American Cemetery in Carthage, where over 2,800 American soldiers were buried, most of them killed during World War II.

Washington in 2015 classified Tunisia as a Major Non-NATO Ally, allowing for reinforced military cooperation.

Since 2011, it has invested more than $1 billion in the Tunisian military, according to Washington’s Africa command, Africom.

The US armed forces organised a military air display in March on the southern island of Djerba.

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Tunisia in 2016 denied a Washington Post report that it had allowed the US to operate drones from its territory for missions in Libya against the Islamic State group.

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper addresses reporters during a media briefing at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., October 11, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott

But a court martial in 2017 in a case of sexual harassment by an American officer, reported in the US defence press, publicly confirmed the presence of an American squadron operating drones from within a Tunisian base in the northern region of Bizerte.

This May, the head of Africom said the US would send more troops to the country in light of the deteriorating situation in Libya, triggering an outcry in Tunisia.

Africom later clarified that it was only deploying “a small training unit” that would not engage in combat missions, and the Tunisian government said there were no plans for an American base in the country.

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Esper, during his Tunisia visit, was due to warn of growing Russian and Chinese influence on the continent, according to a US official speaking before the trip.

The other goal of the visit was to reinforce ties and discuss the threat of jihadists such as the Islamic State group, the official said.

Esper was set to visit neighbouring Algeria on Thursday, becoming the first US defense secretary to do so since Donald Rumsfeld in 2006.

Esper will then head to Morocco, the other US Major Non-NATO Ally in the Maghreb region.


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Tunisia leader, Kais Saied supports hanging amid woman’s murder uproar

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Tunisia’s President Kais Saied has said he backs capital punishment after public outrage over a woman’s murder sparked calls for executions to restart following a three-decade-long pause.

“Anyone who kills a person for no reason deserves the death penalty,” Saied told the nation’s security council late Monday, according to a video posted by the presidency.

Tunisia carried out its last hanging in 1991, according to Amnesty International, but death by hanging remains on the statute books of the North African nation.

Presidential candidate Kais Saied speaks as he attends a news conference after the announcement of the results in the first round of Tunisia’s presidential election in Tunis, Tunisia September 17, 2019. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed/File Photo

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Convicts have regularly been handed death sentences in recent years — mainly in trials related to national security — but a moratorium on carrying out the punishment has been in place.

“Each society has its choices, we have our principles, and the text is there,” Saied added.

A recent murder revived the debate on the death penalty.

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The body of a 29-year-old woman, who had vanished after leaving work, was discovered last week near a highway that runs from the capital Tunis to the suburb of Marsa.

A man was swiftly arrested and confessed to killing her and stealing her phone, according to the interior ministry.

The justice ministry said that the suspect had previously been accused in an earlier murder case that was dismissed, without giving further details.

“If it is proven that he has killed one or more people, I don’t think the solution is … not to apply the death penalty,” Saied added.


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Breaking: Tunisian leader, Kais Saied condemns resort attack.

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Tunisian President Kais Saied on Sunday condemned the attack in the coastal resort town of Sousse that killed one security officer and injured another.

Three suspected Islamic militants who rammed their vehicle into security officers and attacked them with knives were shot dead by Tunisian forces, authorities said Sunday.

“I do not know the intentions, the arrangements, of those who carried out this terrorist act, but they did not succeed in the past and will not succeed in the future,” Saied said.

Saied spoke to journalists during a short visit to the coastal town.

An Interior Ministry statement said the assailants took refuge in a school after the attack and died in a shootout with security forces.

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The North African nation’s prime minister, Hicham Mechichi, appeared to suggest that the assailants’ planning may have been faulty.

The previous attack in Sousse on June 26, 2015, dealt a heavy blow to Tunisia’s tourism sector, a pillar of its economy.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for that attack.

The story at length
Tunisian forces shot dead three suspected Islamic militants who rammed their vehicle into security officers and attacked them with knives, killing one and injuring another in the coastal resort town of Sousse, authorities said Sunday.

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Police officers and forensic workers could be seen examining the site after the attack.

Sousse was the site of Tunisia’s deadliest extremist attack in 2015, when a massacre killed 38 people, most of them British tourists.

An Interior Ministry statement said Sunday that the assailants took refuge in a school after the attack and died in a shootout with security forces.

The North African nation’s prime minister, Hicham Mechichi, appeared to suggest that the assailants’ planning may have been faulty.

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He also announced the arrest of a fourth suspect who had been aboard the vehicle that rammed the National Guard officers.

Hatem Zargouni, director of security for Sousse, said the assailants stabbed the officers and then fled with their weapons.

The injured officer was hospitalized.

The previous attack in Sousse on June 26, 2015, dealt a heavy blow to Tunisia’s tourism sector, a pillar of its economy.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for that attack.


#Newsworthy…

Three Assailants, Officer killed in Tunisia resort attack.

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The attack took place in the coastal resort town of Sousse, where a gunman killed 38 people in 2015.

Tunisian forces shot dead three assailants who rammed their vehicle into security officers and attacked them with knives, killing one officer and injuring another in the coastal resort town of Sousse.

Sousse was the site of Tunisia’s deadliest attack in 2015 when a gunman killed 38 people, most of them British tourists.

A patrol of two National Guard officers was targeted in the knife attack on Sunday in Sousse, 140km (87 miles) south of the capital Tunis, said National Guard spokesman Houcem Eddine Jebabli.

“One died as a martyr and the other was wounded and is hospitalised,” he said, adding “this was a terrorist attack.”

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The attackers first rammed the gendarmes with a vehicle at about 6:40am (05:40 GMT).

After the knife attack, security forces pursued the assailants who took the officers’ guns and vehicle through the Akouda district of the city’s tourist area of El-Kantaoui, said Jebabli.

“In a firefight, three terrorists were killed,” he said, adding security forces “managed to recover” the car and two pistols the assailants had stolen.

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The North African nation’s prime minister, Hicham Mechichi, appeared to suggest the assailants’ planning might have been faulty.

Attackers with knives killed a Tunisian National Guard officer and wounded another before three assailants were shot dead [Bechir Taieb/AFP]

Speaking in Sousse at the site of the attack, he announced the arrest of a fourth suspect who had been on board the vehicle that rammed the National Guard officers.

“These terrorist groups wanted to signal their presence,” he said. “But they got the wrong address this time. The clearest proof of that is that the authors of this attack were eliminated in a few minutes.”

Tunisian President Kais Saied, on a visit hours later to the sealed-off scene of the knife attack, said police were investigating whether it was planned “by individuals or an organisation”.

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Struggling to rebound
The previous attack in Sousse on June 26, 2015, dealt a heavy blow to Tunisia’s tourism sector, a pillar of its economy.

The ISIL (ISIS) armed group had claimed responsibility for that attack.

Aymen Rezgui, a Tunisian student who trained with Libyan fighters, walked onto the beach of the Imperial Hotel and used an assault rifle to shoot at tourists in lounge chairs. He then continued onto the hotel pool before throwing a grenade into the hotel. He was later killed by police.

The year 2015 was a particularly bloody one with three deadly attacks claimed by ISIL. An assault at the capital’s Bardo National Museum in March 2015 had killed 21 foreign tourists and a security guard. In November that year, a bus bombing in central Tunis had killed 12 presidential guards.

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While the situation has significantly improved since then, Tunisia has maintained a state of emergency.

Assaults on security forces have persisted, mainly in remote areas along the border with Algeria.

Last week, Tunisia’s parliament approved a new technocratic government led by Mechichi, which faces the task of tackling deep social and economic woes in the North African country.

The 46-year-old premier pledged to revitalise the economy, including the crucial tourism sector, which had rebounded after the attacks but has been hit hard this year by the coronavirus pandemic.


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Storyline: Tunisia cabinet wins confidence vote.

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Tunisia’s parliament has granted its vote of confidence to the new cabinet led by Prime Minister-designate Hichem Mechichi.

A total of 134 deputies voted in favor of forming the cabinet in a vote in parliament which lasted more than 14 hours.

The cabinet would be the third Tunisia has seen since October and the ninth since the revolution that brought down the North African autocratic regime in 2011 and triggered Arab Spring uprisings across the region.

The parliament voted down a previous prime minister-designate earlier this year after a marathon debate.

  • Prime MInister Designate Hichem Mechichi’s Speech-

During his speech to parliament, Mechichi discussed reducing tax evasion and supporting institutions affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Mechichi, 46, is a former interior minister and lawyer who studied in Tunisia and France.

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He proposed a government with 25 ministers and three secretaries of state that includes seven women and a blind man.

If the government had been rejected, the president Kais Saied would have been obliged to dissolve parliament and call a new election but this surely has been avoided by the confidence vote.

Mechichi, was not nominated by any party but President Saied appointed him as premier last month after Elyes Fakhfakh resigned from the post over allegations of a conflict of interest.

Mechichi’s cabinet should take an oath in front of President Kais Saied later this week.


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Breaking: Tunisian parliament approves third gov’t within one year.

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Hichem Mechichi confirmed as PM after his technocrat-dominated cabinet wins backing from nearly two-thirds of deputies.


Tunisia’s Parliament has approved Prime Minister-designate Hichem Mechichi’s government – the country’s third administration in less than a year.

Following a 15-hour session that started on Tuesday, Mechichi’s cabinet – dominated by independent technocrats – won 134 votes out of the 217 members of parliament.

A former interior minister, Mechichi replaces Elyes Fakhfakh, whose government stayed in power for just five months before he resigned as prime minister last month after questions over his business dealings.

Mechichi proposed a government with 25 ministers and three secretaries of state that includes seven women and a blind man – a first in the country’s history.

The 46-year-old has pledged to enact policies seen as critical to revitalising a tourism-reliant sluggish economy that has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

He gathered the ministries of finance, investment and economy into a single department led by liberal economist Ali Kooli, chief executive of Arab Banking Corporation in Tunisia.

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After the vote, Mechichi said his government would be able to “move forward” provided it was not bogged down in political tensions.

Before the session, which was held amid a tussle for influence between President Kais Saied and the main parties, Mechichi defended his nominations in an address to lawmakers.

He said the deteriorating situation in the country calls for competent figures who can intervene quickly and effectively to find solutions to the various problems and challenges.

“The government formation comes at a time of political instability and the people’s patience has reached its limit,” he said.

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The new government would focus on “social and economic questions and respond to the urgent concerns of Tunisians,” he added.

‘Reform this government’
Tunisia’s Parliament is deeply divided and many lawmakers were angry that Mechichi bypassed the main political factions in building his cabinet.

Mechichi proposed a government with 25 ministers and three secretaries of state that includes seven women and a blind man [Riadh Dridi/AP Photo] [The Associated Press]

Mechichi, a lawyer by training, named judges, academics, public servants and business executives to his cabinet.

Ennahdha, the largest parliamentary force, and others had instead demanded a “political” government that reflects the balance of parties and factions in parliament.

But hours before the vote, the self-styled Muslim Democrats said they would back Mechichi “despite reservations”.

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Abdelkarim Harouni, chairman of Ennahdha’s advisory board, said the party would offer its support “given the difficult situation of the country” but would then seek to “develop and reform this government”.

Tunisia has been praised as a rare success story for the Arab Spring uprisings that swept the region in 2011, bringing down its longtime President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

But it is now mired in social and economic crisis, with the official unemployment rate at 18 percent, and in need of new assistance from the International Monetary Fund.

Tunisia’s tourism-dependent economy shrank 21.6 percent in the second quarter of 2020, compared with the same period last year, due to the coronavirus crisis.


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COVID-19: Remain Cautious – Health Minister Urges. [Tunisia]

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Tunisia on Monday urged continued vigilance against the novel coronavirus, a day after recording no new cases for the first time since March 2 as it eases strict lockdown measures.

The country’s overall toll stood at 1 032 cases on Sunday, the same as the previous day, with 45 deaths – unchanged for several days – and 700 recoveries.

But Health Minister Abdellatif Mekki urged caution despite the encouraging figure.

“It’s true that it boosts morale, but there could be a return of cases tomorrow,” he told the health committee of the North African country’s parliament.

He called on Tunisians to continue respecting hygiene and social distancing measures.

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Tunisia closed its schools, places of worship and non-essential shops in mid-March, despite having recorded fewer than 20 cases of the Covid-19 illness.

It began a partial easing of the lockdown in late April, although schools will largely remain closed until September.

Hairdressers officially opened on Monday, while cafés and mosques are due to reopen on 24 May.

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A broader relaxation is planned for June 14 but will depend on how the health situation develops, officials have said, warning of the risk of a second wave of infection.

But one key metric indicated that the spread of the virus was slowing down – since late April, Covid-19 patients have each been infecting an average of less than one other person.


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COVID-19: Cases in Tunisia exceed 900.


>>> Saudi Arabia ends flogging as punishment <<<


Saudi Arabia has ended the archaic punishment of flogging convicts, according to a directive by the General Commission for the Supreme Court.

Alarabiya.net reported that the courts will now limit punishments to jail time or fines.

The elimination of flogging is the latest step taken by the Kingdom to modernise the judicial system.

Under Sharia, flogging falls under the category of Tazir, punishment dispensed for offences not specified in the Quran or Hadith.


>>> Tunisia’s COVID-19 cases reach 922 <<<


The Tunisian Ministry of Health reported 4 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of the infected to 922 in the country.

“Following a total of 438 lab tests, 34 cases tested positive, of which four were new cases and 30 were previously confirmed cases who were still infected with this virus,” said the ministry in a statement on Friday night.

A total of 194 patients have recovered in Tunisia while 38 deaths were reported in 13 provinces, according to the statement.

“The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients reached 110, including 20 patients in intensive care units,” it said.

According to official figures, a total of 19,849 lab tests have been carried out since March 2, the date of the first COVID-19 case in Tunisia.


>>> 545 total COVID-19 cases in ‘Senegal’ <<<


Senegalese Ministry of Health and Social Action, on Friday reported 66 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases to 545 in the country.

Among the 528 virological examinations carried out within the past 24 hours, 66 came back positive, including 61 follow-up contact cases and five cases of community transmission, Senegalese health minister Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr announced during the daily COVID-19 briefing.

According to him, five more patients tested negative after treatments, bringing the total number of cured to 262. But he also said there is one patient “in critical condition”.

Of the 545 confirmed cases, 400 are close contacts cases, 85 are imported ones and 60 are due to community transmission. Six patients have lost their lives to COVID-19.

Minister Sarr revealed vendors are among the most exposed to COVID-19 in Senegal, and insisted on mandatory wearing of masks in markets and other public places.

“In the context of case detection, I asked my services to considerably increase the number of samples taken per day, in order to allow the identification of a maximum of asymptomatic carriers”, he added.


#Newsworthy…

COVID-19: Tunisia confirms 6th case.


Tunisia has recorded sixth confirmed case of the deadly coronavirus disease, the country’s health ministry announced on Tuesday.

According to info gathered by NobleReporters, head of Primary Health Care Department at the Ministry of Health, Chokri Hamouda, said 44 tests were carried out on Tuesday and one was identified positive for the virus.


The ministry informed that the new case was detected in the district of Boumerdes in the province of Mahdia on the east coast of Tunisia.

The sixth case is said to be a relative of the second case, a 65-year-old Tunisian who returned from Italy and had also infected his wife.


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