Tunisia’s Largest Prison Hit by Brazen Escape of “Dangerous” Terrorism Convicts
In a shocking turn of events, five inmates, incarcerated for their involvement in “terrorist” attacks and classified as “dangerous,” have made a daring escape from Tunisia’s largest prison. The Ministry of the Interior announced this unsettling development on Tuesday, revealing that the fugitives, their identities, and photographs have been disclosed by the prison administration of Mornaguia prison, located near Tunis.
Among the escapees stands Ahmed Melki, 44, also known as “the Somalian,” with a grim association to the assassination of opposition politicians. Arrested in 2014, Melki received a 24-year prison sentence in 2017 for his role in the murder of left-wing figure Chokri Belaïd, a tragic event that took place on February 6, 2013, in Tunis. This politically charged assassination, attributed to extremist Islamists, had profound ramifications, sparking a severe political crisis that led to the relinquishing of power by the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party, which had governed since the 2011 Democratic Revolution.
A decade on, investigations into the assassinations of Chokri Belaïd and another left-wing Member of Parliament, Mohamed Brahmi, on July 25, 2013, remain incomplete. Both victims were outspoken critics of the Ennahdha party, which held a dominant position in the country’s parliament and government at the time.
Acknowledging the gravity of the situation, the Ministry of the Interior has taken immediate action, instructing its units to intensify the search efforts with the objective of swiftly reapprehending the escaped convicts. In a public appeal for assistance, the Ministry has called upon “all citizens” to cooperate with law enforcement by reporting any information that could contribute to the recapture of the fugitives.
Tunisia, in the aftermath of the 2011 popular uprising that deposed dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, witnessed the emergence of various jihadist groups, counting thousands of members within the nation and abroad. Terrorist attacks on Tunisian soil have resulted in numerous casualties, targeting both tourists and security personnel. A June 2021 report by the Crisis Group highlighted that among approximately 2,200 individuals detained under Tunisia’s 2015 anti-terrorism law, around 160 had been convicted of participating in jihadist violence within the country. Additionally, a small number of Tunisian jihadists were extradited and repatriated to Tunisia.