In a message posted on its Facebook page today, Ansar al Sharia Tunisia responded to the Tunisian government’s recent decision to label the group a terrorist organization. Tunisian interior ministry officials highlighted the organization’s ties to al Qaeda and terrorist plotting during a press conference last week. [See LWJ report, Tunisian government: Ansar al Sharia is a terrorist organization.]
“On this occasion, we wish to confirm our organizational independence and that we are not tied to any group outside,” Ansar al Sharia’s statement reads, according to a translation by the SITE Intelligence Group.
The group goes on to confirm its “loyalty” to al Qaeda.”We remind again that our blessed method is declared and there is no hiding in it, and regarding our loyalty to Qaedat al Jihad and the jihadi formations, we have declared it from the first day and we are not ashamed to renew today our declaration with a louder voice.”
Ansar al Sharia blames America for its terrorist listing, saying this “lowly conspiracy” is aimed at paving the way for America’s “direct intervention” and “to justify” an American airbase in the country.
During the interior ministry’s press conference last week, Director General of Public Security Mustapha Ben Amor said that Ansar al Sharia is a part of al Qaeda’s global network and levied a number of accusations against the group.
According to a summary of the press conference by Tunis Afrique Presse (TAP), Ben Amor “reported the existence of close links between Ansar al Sharia and AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb), showing journalists the handwritten Allegiance Act” between Ansar al Sharia’s leader, Seifallah Ben Hassine (a.k.a. Abu Iyad al Tunisi), and AQIM’s emir, Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud. The document reportedly indicates that Ansar al Sharia members who swear allegiance to Ben Hassine, but then disobey his orders, “may be subject to physical extermination.”
“Security investigations have confirmed that the financing of Ansar al Sharia, which was designated a terrorist organization, comes from external and internal sources,” Ben Amor said, according to Magharebia. “We ascertained that the sources of financing for Ansar al Sharia come from certain Arab countries, such as Yemen, Libya and Mali,” Ben Amor added.
“The group is a member of the parent terrorist al Qaeda, and those terrorists receive training first in Libya and then in Syria where they go to train on the ground,” Ben Amor claimed.
Ben Amor also claimed that Seifallah Ben Hassine specifically ordered the Feb. 6 assassination of opposition politician Chokri Belaid. A slide presented at the interior ministry’s press conference said that Ben Hassine “is the source of instructions for the terrorist group involved in the killing of” Belaid and “gave a fatwa to kill him,” according to SITE’s translation. The interior ministry also said that Ansar al Sharia targeted 19 others for assassination.
In its response to the Tunisian government, Ben Hassine’s organization says the terrorist designation is an “honor.” The authors of the statement “congratulate” their “brothers in Ansar al Sharia in particular and the Muslims all over the world in general with this listing on the terrorist list, and with this divine rank, which has increased our certainty in the goodness of the path that we have taken,” according to SITE’s translation.
Addressing the “tyrants” who rule Tunisia, Ansar al Sharia vows it “will not back down no matter how you plot and plan, and no matter what you plan to remove us or excise us.” The group says it “will have the highest degrees of patience and endurance, with our certainty that the battle has bared its teeth and taken off the mask from its face.”