Tunisia says it seeks to stop recruitment to fight in Syria

Published: Updated:

Tunisia’s Islamist-led government is investigating networks it believes are sending young people to fight in Syria, the Justice Ministry said on Tuesday.

According to local media, thousands of young Tunisians recruited by local and regional networks are fighting government forces in Syria.

President Moncef Marzouki said last week that fighters returning from Syria could threaten Tunisia’s efforts to restore security, likening them to Algerians who went to fight in Afghanistan and became radicalized.

The government hopes to hold elections by December to help to rescue a faltering democratic transition in the country that launched the Arab Spring.

The two-year-old conflict in Syria began with peaceful protests against President Bashar al-Assad and has turned into an increasingly sectarian armed insurrection.

The Tunisian ministry urged people with leads on who was recruiting people to fight in Syria to “get in touch with the competent authorities.”

“The Court of First Instance in Tunis has opened an investigation about networks that help Tunisians to travel to Syria for the fight against the Syrian regime,” the ministry said.

Tunisia’s secular opposition parties have strongly criticized the government for failing to stop young men going to Syria to fight.

But Tunisia Prime Minister Ali Larayedh said last week that the authorities have no legal right to stop someone travelling to another country.

Some families have made public appeals for recruitment networks to be disbanded and for their children’s return, saying they had not even known a would-be fighter had left the country until they got a phone call from Syria.