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Tunisia's returning jihadis 'will be arrested'

Chahed said those returning from fighting abroad will be arrested [Getty]

Date of publication: 30 December, 2016

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Militants returning from fighting with extremist groups abroad will be arrested by Tunisian authorities, the prime minister said on Thursday.

Tunisia's prime minister has promised that all militants returning from foreign battlefields would be immediately arrested and judged according to the country's counter-terrorism law.

Youssef Chahed denied claims that those who return from fighting abroad would be let off without punishment, a proposition that sparked protests in the country this week.

"The Tunisian state has not signed any deal on the return of terrorists and the government's position on the matter is clear: it does not support the return from areas of tension," Chahed told state television el-Wataniya on Thursday.

"Those who do return will be immediately arrested on their arrival to Tunisian territory and will be judged. And the counter-terrorism law will be applied against them," said the premier, who met President Beji Caid Essebsi on Thursday afternoon.

Concern about the return of militants escalated since Tunisian Anis Amri, 24, was identified as the suspected attacker who mowed down 11 people with a truck at a Berlin Christmas market last week after killing the driver.

Chahed said Tunisia "has lists of all (Tunisian) terrorists who are in areas of tension and who have been part of terrorist organisations. We know each and every one of them and have all the data on them".

His comments came after a ministerial meeting to decide on an action plan to tackle the issue did not take place on Thursday as planned.

Last week, Interior Minister Hedi Majdoub told parliament that 800 jihadis had already returned from the front lines, stressing however that the authorities have them on their radar.

Despite such assurances, Tunisians rallied outside parliament at the weekend to protest against allowing militants back into the country, with politicians and their parties also expressing similar concerns and criticising the authorities' inaction.

The national union of internal security forces has called on the government to strip Tunisian militants of their nationality.

In December, Essebsi said that his country was "taking all the necessary measures" to ensure that jihadis returning from Syria and Iraq are "neutralised".

But, citing the constitution, he said the authorities could not prevent a Tunisian from returning to their country.

Since its 2011 revolution, Tunisia has faced repeated attacks, killing more than 100 soldiers and policemen, as well as about 20 civilians and 59 foreign tourists, according to official figures.

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