Authorities block more than 12,000 would-be jihadists in Tunisia
TUNIS - Tunisian authorities have prevented more than 12,000 would-be jihadists from leaving the country over the past two years, Interior Minister Najem Gharsalli said on Friday.
Speaking to a parliamentary committee examining an anti-terror bill, he said his ministry had prevented "12,490 Tunisians from leaving Tunisian territory to travel to combat zones" in Iraq, Libya and Syria since March 2013.
Authorities estimate that between 2,000 and 3,000 Tunisians have still managed to head abroad for such purposes, representing a long-term threat to security at home.
Gharsalli also said 1,000 people had been brought before the courts in the first quarter of 2015 for belonging to a terrorist organisation, but did not say how many were in custody or had been formally charged.
The spokesman for the prosecutor's office, Sofiene Sliti, said 83 verdicts had been delivered out of 124 court cases since 2013, but he did not elaborate.
Since a popular uprising ousted long-time dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, Tunisia has been targeted by jihadist violence, which has killed dozens of police and soldiers.
More recently, 21 foreign tourists were gunned down when jihadists claiming links to the Islamic State group assaulted the capital's Bardo National Museum on March 18.