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Five men involved in “terrorist” attacks escape from prison in Tunisia

Five men involved in “terrorist” attacks escape from prison in Tunisia
Tunisian police officers guard the entrance of the National Bardo museum in Tunis,   -  
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Michel Euler/AP


Five individuals, imprisoned for their involvement in "terrorist" attacks and considered "dangerous", have escaped from Tunisia's largest prison, the Ministry of the Interior announced on Tuesday.

"The administration of Mornaguia prison (near Tunis) has reported that five dangerous individuals, liable to prison sentences linked to terrorist cases, escaped from the prison at dawn," said the ministry, which released their identities and photos.

Among the fugitives is Ahmed Melki, 44, nicknamed "the Somalian" and implicated in the assassination of opposition politicians.

Arrested in 2014, he was sentenced in 2017 to 24 years' imprisonment for his involvement in the February 6, 2013 murder in Tunis of left-wing opponent Chokri Belaïd, claimed by extremist Islamists.

The assassination, which shocked Tunisian public opinion, triggered a serious political crisis that forced the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party to cede the power it had held since the 2011 Democratic Revolution to a government of technocrats.

The investigation into Mr. Belaïd's assassination and that of left-wing MP Mohamed Brahmi on July 25, 2013, has still not been completed 10 years after the events. Both men opposed the policies of Ennahdha, then the dominant party in parliament and government.

Given the dangerous nature of the individuals sought, the Ministry said it had "sensitized" all its units to "intensify the search with the aim of arresting them as soon as possible". The Ministry also called on "all citizens" to report to the police any information that could help find them.

After the popular revolt in 2011 that brought down dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia saw a boom in jihadist groups, which counted thousands of members both abroad and in the North African country. Attacks in Tunisia have left dozens of tourists (Sousse and Tunis in 2015) and security forces dead.

According to a Crisis Group report from June 2021, at the time, "out of around 2. 200 people imprisoned under the 2015 anti-terrorism law, 160 individuals were convicted of committing jihadist violence on Tunisian territory", alongside around ten Tunisian jihadists, extradited and repatriated to Tunisia.

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