Tunisia starts building border wall with Libya to counter inflow of terrorists
TUNIS - Tunisia's government said Tuesday it will build a wall along its border with Libya in order to counter the inflow of insurgents following a beach front attack that killed 38 tourists.
The wall is expected to cover about a third of the 310-mile border and will be completed by the end of the year, Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid said in a television interview Tuesday.
The government has already started construction, Essid added, although he warned that protecting the border would be “difficult, very difficult.”
Since unrest swept across the Islamic world in 2011, Tunisia has emerged as a relatively stable and democratic country, and has managed to avoid the turmoil and militancy that plague countries like Syria, Libya and Egypt.
However, Tunisia has faced numerous attacks from militants of the Islamic State group, including a June beachfront attack that killed 38 tourists, and a shooting attack on its Bardo museum in March.
The barrier is one of the measures Tunisia has announced to counter the threat of jihadists who have targeted the tourism sector, which accounts for about 7 percent of the country’s economy.
The Tunisian government has said that the gunman who carried out the attack in the Sousse resort last month was trained in Libya.
Perpetrators of another fatal shooting at the country’s main museum in March also came from the war-torn neighbor.
The Islamic State branch in Libya claimed responsibility for both attacks.
A state of emergency was declared in Tunisia after the beachfront shooting. Both the incidents targeted the tourism sector, a major part of the country's economy that accounts for about 15 percent of its GDP.
Tunisia had already sealed its main border crossing to Libya last August after thousands of Egyptians and other foreign nationals fleeing violence in their home countries tried to storm the passage. The government also called on its estimated 50,000 to 60,000 nationals living in Libya at the time to leave "as soon as possible" in the face of the ongoing violence.
Libya has struggled to contain the outbreak in violent insurgent movements since the overthrow of former ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
However, the country is currently torn between two rival governments battling for control, while numerous militias, many whom are tied to al Qaeda or ISIS, are emerging strong amid the chaos.