Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia’s Shift to Jihad

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross 18 Feb 2014

By Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, Bridget Moreng and Kathleen Soucy

Since the fall of Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011, the country has been challenged by the growth of a domestic salafi jihadist movement. The most significant salafi jihadist organisation is Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia (AST), which by 2013 established a strategy based around dawa and hisba violence. Since May 2013, violence between AST and the Tunisian state significantly increased, prompting Tunisia’s government to designate AST a terrorist organisation in late August.

In this Research Paper, ICCT Associate Fellow Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, Bridget Moreng and Kathleen Soucy analyse the likely future of the conflict between AST and the Tunisian state, making three arguments. First, it explains how strategic thinking and political considerations drove the Tunisian government to escalate its fight against AST despite ambiguities in the evidence concerning who bore ultimate responsibility for the violence that prompted this escalation. Second, it argues that new revelations about AST make it seem less like the local organisation many observers perceived a year or two ago, and more connected to international jihadism. Third, the Paper describes the strategic thinking behind the recent targeting choices of Tunisian jihadists, who are attempting to undermine the country’s economy.

Download the Research Paper.

How to cite: Gartenstein-Ross, D., Moreng, B. and K. Soucy. “Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia’s Shift to Jihad”, The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague 5, no. 3 (2014).