On Friday, January 4, President Béji Caïd Essebsi signed an order to extend the nationwide state of emergency for an additional month. The renewed order covers the period beginning Sunday, January 6, and ends on February 4. The extension comes after security forces clashed with suspected militants in Jilma (Sidi Bouzid province) on January 3.
Tunisia has been under a near-constant state of emergency since June 2015. Although briefly lifted in October 2015, it was reinstated following the November 24, 2015, bus bombing that killed a dozen security guards in downtown Tunis.
The state of emergency gives authorities additional powers, such as the suspension of certain civil rights and freedoms guaranteed by the constitution, in the interest of maintaining civil order as part of broader counterterrorism and anti-corruption efforts. Specifically, under the state of emergency, authorities can ban strikes and gatherings deemed likely to cause disorder, temporarily close theaters and bars, impose curfews, and secure control over the press and all types of publications.
Authorities frequently dismantle suspected terrorist cells in counterterrorism operations conducted across the country, particularly focused in the eastern Chambi mountain region (Kasserine province), where a number of terrorist groups are entrenched. According to estimates by the Ministry of the Interior, several thousand Tunisian nationals are currently fighting for Islamic State (IS) and other armed groups in Iraq and Syria, raising fears that they could return to Tunisia to perpetrate attacks.
Individuals in Tunisia are advised to remain vigilant and to report any suspicious objects or behavior to the authorities, particularly when visiting sites deemed particularly likely to be targeted in an attack (e.g. public transportation, train stations, ports, airports, public or government buildings, embassies or consulates, international organizations, schools and universities, religious sites, markets, hotels and restaurants frequented by foreigners/Westerners, festivals, etc.). Certain Western governments advise against travel to the south of the country (e.g., regions on the borders with Algeria and Libya, and in Kasserine province), due to the presence of armed groups.
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