'The breeding ground for jihadists is the denial of democracy'

France — Interview

Four terror attacks on Friday that left scores dead across four countries on three different continents raised speculation that Islamic State had launched a concerted offensive from its Syrian and Iraqi stronghold to mark the first anniversary of its Caliphate. However, an expert on jihadist movements, Wassim Nasr, dismisses the idea that the outrages in France, Tunisia, Kuwait and Somalia were part of a coordinated campaign, and says the West still does not understand Islamic State's real strategy. In a wide-ranging interview with Mediapart, the specialist contends that Western states, including France, have themselves created the breeding ground for jihadist groups by backing dictatorships over democratically-elected popular movements. Pierre Puchot reports.

French and Tunisian presidents express solidarity against terrorism 'scourge'

International — Link

France's François Hollande and Tunisian counterpart Beji Caid Essebsi issued statement after bloody terror attacks in their two countries.

Tunisian president Essebsi on two-day visit to France

International — Link

The Tunisian head of state was in Paris for the first time since his election in December, signifying an improvement in strained bilateral relations.

Fourth French citizen dies of Tunisia attack wounds

France — Link

News of further death after museum attack came as President Hollande prepared to join march in memory of the victims in Tunis on Sunday.

Tunisia's long battle with terrorism


The authorities in Tunisia have announced that 21 people, including 20 foreign tourists, were killed by three gunmen in their attack on the Bardo museum in the capital Tunis on Wednesday, for which Islamic State has claimed responsibility. The shootings happened just as the nearby Tunisian parliament was debating proposed new anti-terrorism legislation, and there is speculation that the assembly was the gunmen’s initial target. Islamist groups have blighted the small North African country’s fragile transition to democracy since the 2011 revolution that toppled the iron-fisted regime of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, mounting political assassinations and attacks on the military. But, as Mediapart’s Arab affairs correspondent Pierre Puchot reports, Islamist terror groups have been active in Tunisia for decades, during the dictatorial regimes of both Ben Ali and his predecessor Habib Bourgiba, and the challenge now for the fledgling democracy is to find effective means to combat them without returning to the liberticidal practices of the past.  

Two French tourists among those killed in Tunis terror attack

International — Link

The French victims were among a reported 20 foreign tourists and three Tunisians shot dead by gunmen who attacked the Bardo museum.

Inside the Jewish community in Tunisia: family of Paris shooting victim speak out

International — Interview

One of the victims of the kosher supermarket shootings during the Paris attacks in January was Yoav Hattab, a 21-year-old Jew from Tunisia. His family are part of a Jewish community whose roots in the North African country go back many centuries but which has seen its numbers fall dramatically over the last 50 years. The dead man's elder brother, Avishay Hattab, has spoken at length to Mediapart's Pierre Puchot about how the family learnt of Yoav's death, at their dismay at the lack of official Tunisian government recognition of his murder, and of the difficulties in belonging to one of the last Jewish communities in the Arab world. Meanwhile an association that supports local minorities talks about the need to combat the “hatred” aimed at Jews in Tunisia. But Avishay Hattab says he is “proud” of being Tunisian and insists he has no intention of leaving a country his family has lived in for countless generations.

Tunisian elections: 'A chance the revolution gave us'

Portfolio — 10 photos

More than five million registered voters were called to the urns last weekend in Tunisia in the first parliamentary elections under it’s new constitution, and following more than three years of political transition since the toppling of the dictatorial regime of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011. The Tunisian revolution was the first of the pro-democracy movements which swept North Africa and the Middle East in what became known as ‘the Arab Spring’, and the parliamentary elections held on Sunday, to be followed by presidential elections in November, are a crucial step for the future stability of the country, a former French colony.Despite fears of disruption by Islamist extremists, the poll passed off without any serious incidents. As the count continued on Tuesday, it appeared likely that the secularist Nidaa Tounes party had won the most seats of any, with about 80 of the National Assembly’s 217 seats, just ahead of the moderate Islamist Ennahda movement.Ennahda won the largest number of seats in elections called in 2011 after Ben Ali’s flight from the country, but its coalition government was forced to step down at the beginning of this year after months of protests that followed the assassination of a secular politician Mohammad Brahmi in July 2013.The new constitution established in January introduced parity between men and women on electoral campaign lists, the first such move in any Arab country. The Tunisian Independent High Authority for Elections announced that women made up just under half of newly-registered voters.The elections were held under a system of proportional representation, with each of the country’s regions allocated a number of parliamentary seats according to their population size.Mediapart’s North Africa and Middle East affairs correspondent Pierre Puchot visited polling stations in the capital Tunis on Sunday, where he captured the following scenes of a historic day for Tunisia.

France deports Tunisian accused of recruiting jihadists

International — Link

The French interior ministry said that the 28-year-old Tunisian played 'a key role' in the recruitment of young jihadists in the Grenoble area.

Ex-French ambassador under investigation after found with thousands in cash

France — Link

Diplomat-turned-businessman Boris Boillon, who close to Nicolas Sarkozy, was reportedly stopped at Paris train station with 350,000 euros on him.

France expels 'anti-Semitic' Tunisian imam

International — Link

France has expelled a 77 year-old Tunisian imam accused of spreading anti-Semitic views and denigrating women at his Paris mosque.

What US cables reveal about France and the Ben Ali regime


French foreign minister Michèle Alliot-Marie has been forced to resign after a series of revelations over her close ties with the entourage of deposed Tunisian strongman Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. After a luxurious holiday in Tunisia during the popular uprising then sweeping the country, she later offered French security "know-how" to the desperate Ben Ali regime during its last days in power. But Alliot-Marie was far from alone in her disinterest of the dire human rights abuses exacted under Ben Ali's 23-year reign, as confirmed by US diplomatic cables revealed exclusively here. In this first report following Mediapart's newly-reached partnership with WikiLeaks, we detail how official French policy towards Tunis has for years placed bi-lateral security issues well above concerns for democracy.

French foreign minister lost in Tunisia fable

France — Analysis

French foreign affairs minister Michèle Alliot-Marie has come under intense pressure to resign following further revelations about her New Year's holidays with her partner and family in strife-torn Tunisia. Contradicting her version hitherto of events, it now emerges that during the trip she held talks with now-deposed president and despot Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, while her parents signed a business deal with an entrepreneur close to the regime. Here, Mediapart compares the minister's public statements with the truth established so far, revealing how she has misled both the French public and parliament.

How the Ben Ali regime spooked a nation

International — Investigation

The fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak followed directly the overthrow in January of Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. The two strongmen had much in common, beginning with their secret police. Mediapart has obtained official documents seized during the strife in Tunisia which illustrate the extent of the Ben Ali regime's nationwide web of informers, ranging from taxi drivers to undercover agent 'activists'.

Fillon crash-lands into 'Air Dictator' row


First there was the scandal of French foreign minister Michèle Alliot-Marie's holidays in strife-torn Tunisia, now comes that of Prime Minister François Fillon's sojourn in Egypt courtesy of President Hosni Mubarak. The revelations have stunned opinion in France and made headlines around the world, prompting President Nicolas Sarkozy to tell ministers they must holiday in France from now on. Marine Turchi reports on the parliamentary turbulence caused by the latest jet-set holiday disclosures.