Tunisian security forces have dismantled a 13-member “terrorist cell” that was funneling young recruits to extremist groups abroad, the interior ministry announced on Wednesday.
The suspects, aged between 22 and 43, were arrested on Tuesday in Hergla, a town north of the coastal resort city of Sousse, the ministry said in a statement.
Members of the cell held “secret meetings in a mosque” in Hergla and admitted to recruiting and sending 12 youths to fight with jihadist groups abroad, it said, linking it to the Okba Ibn Nafaa Battalion, a group connected to al-Qaida.
It was the seventh announcement in less than a week of arrests of alleged “terrorists” in Tunisia, which has detained more than 70 people in a widening crackdown since December 25.
Concern has been growing for the threat posed by returning jihadists, with the national union for security forces last month urging the government to take “exceptional measures” against them.
According to the United Nations, some 5,500 Tunisians, mainly aged between 18 and 35, have joined the ranks of militant groups fighting in Syria, Iraq and Libya. But the Tunisian government puts the figure at less than 3,000.
Since the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia has been battling a jihadist movement that has killed dozens of soldiers and police officers as well as civilians including 59 foreign tourists.
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