November 4, 2013 | Quote

Militants Test Tunisia’s New Democracy

When protesters stormed the U.S. embassy in Tunis last year, they hoisted a black jihadist flag that exposed the militant Islamist undercurrent in one of the Muslim world's most secular societies.

An attack on a tourist resort last week by a suicide bomber, and recent gun battles with Tunisian police, revealed how deeply that fervor, fostered worldwide by al Qaeda, has taken root in the country where the Arab Spring began.

Militants, few in number, have little chance of forging the Islamic state they want in Tunisia or igniting wider war. But with the country still stumbling toward democracy and Libya's chaos on its doorstep, violent Islamists have room to flourish.

No one else died when a man blew himself up on the beach at Sousse on Wednesday after failing to get in to a resort hotel. Another would-be suicide bomber was arrested. Last month, nine policemen died in a clash with Islamists.

Both incidents shocked a small country little used to violence, dependent on tourism and in the process of forming a national unity government to organize elections after two years of rule by moderate Islamists allied to the Muslim Brotherhood.

“When we have seen this in the past, in Syria or elsewhere, it is usually a very ominous sign of things to come,” Thomas Joscelyn of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington said of the suicide bomber. “It represents a marked escalation in the tactics the jihadists are willing to use.”

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Al Qaeda Tunisia