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State of emergency in Tunisia as fears grow

09 July 2015, 07:02

Tunis - Tunisia fears more potentially destabilising "terrorist attacks," like the one that killed 38 foreign tourists last month, which is why it has imposed a state of emergency, the premier said on Wednesday.

Eight days after the June 26 shootings at the Mediterranean resort of Port El Kantaoui, President Beji Caid Essebsi decreed on Saturday a state of emergency for 30 days.

The rampage by a Tunisian student killed 30 Britons, three Irish nationals, two Germans, one Belgian, one Portuguese and a Russian, and was claimed by the Islamic State group.

"We are engaged in a ferocious war against terrorism to protect lives and property, defend the republican regime... the civil state and its institutions," Prime Minister Habib Essid told parliament.

Also Read: Tunisia's state of emergency must respect rights - HRW

"We would not have felt obliged to decree the state of emergency if we were not convinced that our country was facing numerous terrorist plans to destabilise the country," he said.

He spoke of "the gangs of terrorism, murder and crime preparing other operations... aimed at killing the maximum number of people, undermining morale and grinding the national economy to a halt."

Essebsi spoke as rights groups warned the state of emergency should not suppress freedoms gained since the 2011 revolution that overthrew longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

But while saying "whatever it takes, we will prevail over terrorism," this would not come at the expense of human rights.

These will "not be touched," he said.

Border barrier

Meanwhile, Tunisia will complete construction of a barrier along the Libyan border, from Ras Jedir on the Mediterranean coast to Dhiba, 186 km to the southwest, a defence ministry official said.

The barrier, which will include berms and trenches, was announced after a terrorist attack on the national museum in Tunis in March killed 22 people, mostly tourists.

Work began on the barrier in April and will be completed by year-end, Belhassan Oueslati said.

The perpetrators of both attacks were said to have been trained in Libya.

The state of emergency grants the security forces exceptional powers. Among them, it allows the authorities to bar strike action and public meetings deemed dangerous to public order and to increase controls on the media.

The current state of emergency is not the first to be imposed in Tunisia since the revolution that sparked the Arab Spring.

There was also one in force from January 14, 2011 - hours after the flight of dictator Ben Ali - until March last year.



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