x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Tunisia obeys orders of the West, extremist claims

A Tunisian Salafist leader wanted for deadly violence said the government is in thrall to western powers, according to an interview banned by the authorities but posted online yesterday.

TUNIS // A Tunisian Salafist leader wanted for deadly violence said the government is in thrall to western powers, according to an interview banned by the authorities but posted online yesterday. But Abu Iyadh, who heads the militant Islamist group, Ansar Al Sharia, also said he was ready for dialogue with the country's ruling moderate Islamist party Ennahda.

"We make a difference between the government and the Ennahda movement. The government does not represent Islam, but we work with Ennahda as an Islamic movement independent of the government," he said in the interview that was to be broadcast on a local radio station before it was barred by a Tunisian judge.

"Our enemies want a conflict between Islam and Islam. Ennahda wants to meet us, but their hands are tied by the government, because it obeys the orders of the West," added the fugitive imam, whose real name is Seif Allah Ibn Hussein and who is accused of orchestrating an attack on the United States Embassy last year.

Ennahda heads Tunisia's coalition government in partnership with two left-leaning secular parties, including the Congress for the Republic of president Moncef Marzouki.

Abu Iyadh insisted his movement ws not seeking to wage war in Tunisia. "There is no reason to carry out jihad in Tunisia, that's why dozens of young Tunisians leave for Syria or elsewhere...We are involved with social work, charity and preaching," he said. "We do not have a stash of weapons.

The Salafist leader said he opposed the departure of Tunisian militants for the battle zones of Syria and Mali, as it "emptied Tunisia of its young" Salafis.