A Tunisian court sentenced British DJ Dax J to a year in prison on April 6 for "public indecency" and "offending public morality" after the artist played a remix of the Muslim call to prayer in a nightclub. The nightclub was subsequently shut down and charges were filed against the club's owner and the organizer of the event where Dax J was playing. These charges were subsequently dropped, but the prosecution appealed the dropped charges claiming the owner and organizer still maintain liability. Tunisia's religious affairs ministry commented on the charges and conviction saying: "Mocking the opinions and religious principles of Tunisians is absolutely unacceptable."
The latest in an ongoing wave of unclaimed air-strikes in Libya on Feb. 9 hit al-Jufra air base in the interior of the country, which is in the hands of local militia forces. Two were reported killed and several injured, as well as extensive damage to the base. The targeted militias were identified as the Tagrift Brigade and the Saraya Defend Benghazi group. These militias have been targeted before by Gen. Khalifa Haftar, military chief of Libya's unrecognized eastern-based government. (Anadolu Agency, Libya Observer, Feb. 9)
The UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported Jan. 6 that 2016 had more recorded migrant deaths than any previous year. According to preliminary figures, 363,348 migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Europe arrived successfully while 5,079 died at sea. At least 300 more fatalities are expected to factor in, as the figures do not yet reflect more recent events off Spain, Morocco and Tunisia. The IOM suspects there are additional unreported deaths in areas between North Africa and Spain where there was less reliable data collection. The IOM expressed its dismay over the current migrant situation, expressing the need to find "creative means to permit safe, legal and secure migration." The IOM also began training rescuers in Libya to strengthen migrant lifesaving efforts.
The farmers and agricultural workers of Tunisia's Jemna oasis have issued an urgent call for solidarity in defense of their communal property against a government-backed land-grab. The Jemna oasis historically belonged to the local farmers, until it was expropriated by French settlers and then by the Tunisian state after independence. İn the aftermath of the 2011 Revolution, the farmers successfully fought to recover title to the lands, organizing production collectively in a "solidarity-based micro-economy." The Tunisian state is now trying to re-expropriate the oasis to turn it over to local or foreign cronies, in what the farmers call a "counter-revolutionary attempt to maintain the capitalist order." Most recently, the government declared the Association for the Protection of Jemna Oasis to be an illegal entity. The Ministry of State Properties and Land Affairs, which leased the land to private operators before 2011, issued a statement threatening to cancel the call for tenders on the Association's' date harvest. It is now harvest season, when dates are sold to vendors and intermediaries through the Ministry's call for tenders. If pressure is not put on Tunis to issue the call for tenders, the harvest will be lost. The oasis accounts for some 10% of the arable land in Tunisia. (Lucha Internacionalista, UIT-CI, TunisiaLive, Oct. 10; Nawaat, Sept. 27)
Algeria has announced plans to build a 120-kilometer wall along its border with Libya, local media sources report. The wall along the 1,000-kilometer border is another step in a list of upgraded security measures Algeria is undertaking to improve its counter-terrorism initiatives. Measuring three metres in height, and lined with barbed wire, the wall is intended curb the movement of ISIS militants and arms smugglers from entering the country. Growing reports of incursions by armed militants and criminals, alongside growing attacks and kidnappings in Algeria's remote south, have spurred calls for construction of the barrier. According to Geoff Porter, president of North Africa Risk Consulting, Algeria seeks to avoid "trespassing on another sovereign territory" by militants and smuggling networks. Tunisia earlier this year completed the first phase of its own separation wall on the Libyan border. (MEM, Sept. 2)
In a surprise dawn raid March 7, ISIS attacked National Guard, army and police barracks in Ben Guerdane, the first Tunisian town west of the border with Libya. At least 53 people were killed in the figting, including several civilians. The dead included a 12-year-old girl. "Our country is at war against barbarism," said Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi. "This is an unprecedented attack, planned and organized. Its goal was probably to take control of this area and to announce a new emirate." The attack was repulsed, but a curfew has been imposed in Ben Gardane and the border with Libya is closed until further notice. (AP, Libya Observer, ANSA, Al Jazeera, March 7)
The UK will be sending troops to Tunisia to help prevent ISIS fighters from entering the country from Libya, British Defense Minister Michael Fallon said March 1. "A training team of some 20 troops from the 4th Infantry Brigade is now moving to Tunisia to help to counter illegal cross-border movement from Libya in support of the Tunisian authorities," Fallon told Parliament. Using the Arabic acronym for ISIS, he added: "I am extremely concerned about the proliferation of Daesh along the Libyan coastline, which is why we have been urgently assisting the formation of a new Libyan government." Implicitly invoking deployment of ground forces in Libya, he said: "Before taking any military action in Libya, we would seek an invitation from the new Libyan government." (MEM, March 2)
US warplanes hit an ISIS camp at Sabratha, about 70 kilometers west of Tripoli, killing at least 49—said to be mostly foreign fighters who were preparing an attack in Europe. The camp was said to be led by Noureddine Chouchane AKA "Sabir"—a Tunisian militant held to be responsible in last year's terror attacks in Tunisia. "We took this action against Sabir in the training camp after determining that both he and the ISIL fighters at these facilities were planning external attacks on US and other Western interests in the region," said Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook. "We see what's happening in Iraq and Syria and we believe that these fighters in Libya posed a threat to our national security interests." He said the strikes were carried out "with the knowledge of Libyan authorities" but declined to confirm exactly who had been informed. Ironically, the Islamist-led rebel government in Tripoli said it supported the air-strikes, while the internationally recognized government exiled to Libya's east condemned them. (Libya Herald, Feb. 20; CNN, BBC News, Feb. 19)