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Secularists fear an Islamist takeover in Tunisia

Published: Updated:

Secular and western societies are becoming increasingly concerned over developments in Tunisia following the noticeable post-revolution surge in the number of citizens participating in Islamist movements, the Financial Times reported on Monday.

The developed situation is raising concerns from counter-terrorism organizations as more Tunisian militants are seen to take the frontlines fighting in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Mali.

Tunisia had been viewed as a secular state prior to the 2010 revolution.

In January, Tunisians formed the biggest group among the militants who participated in the attack on the In Amenas natural gas plant in Algeria, and in February, suspected Islamist militants shot dead a leading secular politician in Tunis, triggering further political instability.

Tunisia has recently been embroiled in controversy following reports that members of Islamist Tunisian parties are involved in the fighting in Syria. The country said the presence of insurgents abroad and the increased access to weapons has left the government concerned about its foreign and domestic policies, the newspaper reported.

Tunisian Prime Minister Ali Larayedh said last week in a statement made to the press that his country cannot legally prevent its citizens from travelling to Syria to fight.

Larayedh revealed that Tunisians travel to Libya and Turkey under the pretext of tourism or work and later go to Syria.

Tunisian security forces said late March that there are a number of disbanded networks that were working on recruiting young Tunisians to send them to Syria.

Government officials reported to have on many occasions caught weapons being smuggled into the country. Earlier in February, Tunisian security forces were reported to have clashed with militants smuggling weapons into the country and killed three.

Experts say the Tunisian uprising resulted in a sizable number of young Tunisian civilians recruited by extremists to participate in violent battles inside and outside the country.