Tunisia says foiled plot to kidnap local Jews
Interior Ministry says security forces thwarted plan to abduct young Jews in Zarzis, hold them for ransom. Jewish leader: Intimidation campaign underway
Roi Kais, Reuters
Tunisian security forces arrested four people for allegedly plotting to kidnap local Jews and hold them for ransom, an Interior Ministry official said on Thursday.
There are less than 2,000 Jews in Tunisia, mostly living in Zarzis and the nearby island of Djerba in the south of the country.
"The security forces aborted a plan to kidnap young Jews in Zarzis. Police arrested four young men and seized two weapons," the official, Lofi Hidouri, told Reuters.
A Tunisian newspaper reported that security forces managed to stop a "dangerous terror network" that operated against Jews. According to the report, the man behind the activity was a security officer who was in charge of protecting Jews residing in southern Tunisia. He recruited numerous youngsters to the terror network, the newspaper said.
It was further reported that the security officer had already purchased a vehicle from Libya, as well as a weapon, which he planned to use in the attack.
Perez Trabelsi, head of the Jewish community in Djerba, also said a policeman was among the four arrested.
"There is a big worry in Djerba and Zarzis. The government should provide us with more protection," Trablesi said.
An "intimidation campaign" was underway to force Jews to leave Tunisia, he said.
"This is our country, we will not leave it", he added.
Tunisia, whose authoritarian president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, was overthrown in a street revolt in January 2011, now has an elected Islamist-led government.
Friction has grown between Islamists and secularists, with hardline Salafi Muslims clashing with police in street protests.
A few weeks after Ben Ali fled Tunisia, a synagogue in the city of Ghabes was set alight.
No one was hurt and the incident appeared to be isolated, but it revived memories of an al-Qaeda attack in 2002 that killed 21 tourists after an explosive-laden truck Blew up near a synagogue in Djerba.