Tunisia Arrests Former ‘Ansar al-Sharia’ Spokesman on Suspicion of Terrorism

Tunisia Arrests Former ‘Ansar al-Sharia’ Spokesman on Suspicion of Terrorism

Wednesday, 7 March, 2018 - 12:45
Sayf al-Din Ben Rayes, a former spokesman for the banned Ansar al-Sharia organization. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Tunis - al-Munji Saidani
The Tunisian security services in charge of combating terrorist crimes arrested a six-member terrorist cell in Kairouan city. The detainees include Sayf al-Din Ben Rayes, a former spokesman for the banned Ansar al-Sharia organization.

On Monday evening, security units in Kairouan arrested members of the cell and handed them over to members of the National Unit for the Investigation of Terrorist Crimes, which is affiliated with the Ministry's National Police and National Guard, for further investigation.

Tunisian security sources suspected that some members of the cells were affiliated with other Tunisian terror leaders that had joined the ISIS group in Libya and Syria. They are also suspected of faciliatting the travel of Tunisians to Libya to join terror groups.

In August 2014, Rayes announced that he had ended his relationship with ISIS since it was classified as a terrorist organization in August 2013. Terrorists suspicions however continued to follow him.

The suspicions are based on a video released on the internet in which he is shown praising the organization. They are also based on the testimony of Tunisian terrorist Afif al-Amouri, also known as Abu Iyad, who is responsible for Ansar al-Sharia’s media wing.

Rayes is a physical education trainer who resided in Kairouan. He was born in 1982 and was tried in 2005 under the regime of former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali for belonging to ISIS. He was sentenced to two years in prison, where he met extremist inmates.

His relationship with Ansar al-Sharia was strengthened after the revolution that overthrew Ben Ali's rule in 2011. He was assigned as the organization’s spokesman at the end of 2012 before it was banned in 2013, amid accusations that members of the group were involved in the assassination of left-wing leader Shukri Belaid and parliamentary MP Mohammed al-Barahmi.

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