‘Tunisia attacks designed to portray Middle East as a danger zone’
Gunmen attacked a tourist resort in the Tunisian city of Sousse, reportedly killing at least 28 people, predominantly foreigners, in an effort to instill fear in Western tourists, Catherine Shakdam from the Beirut Centre for Middle East Studies told RT.
RT:Do you think the timing of today’s attacks was a coincidence or is there a link between them?
CS: I don’t know whether it was actually planned to be a dual attack, but I think that when it comes to ideology and the reach that they aim to have with those kinds of attacks – definitely. I think it screams of ISIS and al-Qaeda; these are the kind of actions, of terrorist attacks, that they have warned they would carry out either in the West or even in the Middle East. It’s definitely something to be blamed on radicals. It is essentially to instill fear. It doesn’t surprise me that as we are coming closer to the summer’s highest tourist month. I think that’s what they are trying to do – to instill fear in Western tourists and portray the Middle East as a very dangerous area that Western tourists should not enter.
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RT:Tourism is a huge source of income for Tunisia. Speaking of what has happened, does it mean that security is lacking in Tunisia? Has not enough been done to protect tourists?
CS: When it comes to this kind of terrorist attacks, it’s almost impossible to ensure 100 percent security. I think what radicals are trying to do is to blackmail. Whether it’s Tunisia, or Egypt – all those countries that heavily rely on the tourism industry to draw an income…The more poverty there is in the Middle East, the more social unrest there will be and therefore the more likely people will be to buy into the radical narrative.
‘Many indications that attacks would happen during Ramadan’
Sergio Altuna, jihadist movements researcher, told RT that Tunisia was picked as a site for a terrorist attack because the country is going through a transition period towards democracy.
RT:Do you think there is a coincidence that attacks happened in France and Tunisia – with the latter being a former French colony? What do you make of this?
Sergio Altuna: There are several interesting facts that we should have a look at. Friday is an important day for Muslims, their sacred day. The attack took place possibly after prayer, we still don’t know. Apart from that, it’s now the most sacred month [for Muslims] – Ramadan. Attacks, as we know, had been expected for several reasons. Daesh, the so-called Islamic State, is celebrating their first year anniversary. In his last speech [ISIS spokesman] al-Adnani was menacing different targets…So, there are many reasons that point out that Ramadan was a month when attacks were to be expected not only in Syria and Iraq, where according to [the extremist group] is the period of the conquests, but also in the West, as we have seen.
RT:Why the Tunisian hotels have been chosen for the attack? Why have the terrorists targeted harmless tourists?
SA: The most important reason – although it’s not the only one – is that Tunisia is transitioning towards a clean democracy. So this attack [targets] stability and democracy, because the country will be perceived by everybody as dangerous and not one to visit. And Tunisia more than ever needs support from the West; not only economic support, but also help regarding political issues, society and civil society, etc. That’s why terrorists try to target this phenomenon of the transition as a whole.
Reasons behind attacks: Humiliation, frustration and Western military intervention
Abdel Bari Atwan, editor in chief of the Raialyoum Arabic newspaper says that both Western and Arabic worlds should carry responsibility for the attacks because of their policies.
RT:What drives people to launch attacks of such nature?
ABA: I believe we have to remember two things – first, not only France was attacked; there are similar attacks in Tunisia and Kuwait at the same time. There was a suicide attack on a mosque of the Shia community in Kuwait where [at least 25] people got killed. The same happened in Tunisia… Second thing, those people are the minority and we cannot generalize and make the Muslim community responsible for these attacks.
The reason [behind the attacks can be described] in three words: humiliation, frustration and military intervention - intervention in the Middle East’s affairs by the Western powers. For instance, the previous Tunisian government allowed 3,000 terrorists to go and join Islamic State and fight in Syria. And the French policy is intervening and encouraging a lot of intervention in that part of the world – in Syria and Iraq in particular.
I believe those people are trying to say “Ok, you are intervening in our part; you’re spreading humiliation and frustration, so we are going for revenge.” These are terrorist acts, no question about that, it’s brutal, innocent people are killed. It should be condemned by strongest words. But, also, I believe that Western governments have to revise their policies and try to find out why those people are committing these kind of acts of terrorism...It is a collective responsibility; it’s not just France alone, it’s the whole western world and, also the Arab world.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.