Let me begin this post with a caveat: I don’t know whether American drones are currently flying over Tunisia. I do know that Ansar al Sharia Tunisia is alleging in its social media propaganda that this is the case and is questioning whether the Islamist Ennahda government has granted its permission for the flights. And this is interesting in light of the escalating tensions between Ansar al Sharia leader Abu Iyad al Tunisi and Tunisian prime minister Ali Larayedh.
At the top of this post you can see a banner that Ansar al Sharia published on its Facebook page several days ago. The group claims that a trustworthy witness has spotted a drone flying overhead.
In a follow-up post written within the last day on its Facebook news page, the group posted another generic picture of a drone with a message asking if the Ennahda government had approved the flights. The same post pointed to increased security cooperation between the US and Tunisian governments, adding that either the drone flights were approved by Ennahda or Tunisian sovereignty is being violated.
Again, I have no independent information about drones being used inside Tunisia. Ansar al Sharia Tunisia’s posts could just be an invention.
It is clear, though, that Ansar al Sharia Tunisia is increasingly questioning Ennahda’s governance. Abu Iyad al Tunisi’s threat to “direct our war against” Ennahda members makes this plain to see, of course. And his group is seeking to exploit any hint of cooperation between the US and Tunisian government in the fight against terrorism.
In December, Ansar al Sharia Tunisia released photos of three FBI agents who were in Tunis to question Ali Ani al Harzi, a key suspect in the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya. In a hyperbolic message accompanying the photos, the group accused the Tunisian government of seeking to join the American union. Abu Iyad’s group also celebrated al Harzi’s release from prison in January.
As I noted at the end of my Long War Journal piece yesterday, Ansar al Sharia recently posted a message on Facebook alleging that a US intervention in Tunisia was imminent. The organization accused the US and the “puppet” Tunisian government of justifying this under the “pretext” of fighting terrorism. On its Facebook page, the group pointed to comments by General Carter Ham, head of US Africa Command, as evidence for this supposed pending invasion. Ham warned that al Qaeda is seeking to establish a foothold inside Tunisia, but said he was encouraged by the Ennahda government’s apparent willingness to tackle the problem. This was enough to draw a response from Ansar al Sharia.
On top of these examples, Abu Iyad’s al Qaeda–linked extremist group has now repeatedly alleged that the US is flying drones over Tunisia and that the Ennahda government has either acquiesced to this measure, or is powerless to stop it.
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