Security sources reported that the body of a shepherd was found on Mount Muhgila in Kasserine governorate on Saturday, June 3. According to unconfirmed reports, the victim was found decapitated. Later in the day, the Islamic State (IS) released a statement through its Amaq news agency claiming that its forces had killed a spy on Mount Muhgila. Media sources reported that the Tunisian army conducted operations in Sidi Bouzid, Kasserine, and the Chaambi Mountains on Saturday.
The shepherd was abducted by suspected IS militants on Friday, June 2. According to media reports, the victim’s brother had been decapitated by Okba Ibn Nafaa in 2015. Okba Ibn Nafaa primarily operates out of the Chaambi mountain range on the Algerian border and have carried out attacks on towns and checkpoints in the area. While the majority of its members have claimed allegiance to Al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), some have split off to join IS in the Sammama mountains.
The threat from terrorism, including kidnapping, in Tunisia is considered high. Two high profile terrorist attacks targeted tourist sites in 2015: the Bardo National Museum attack in Tunis in March 2015, resulting in the death of 21 people, mostly Europeans, and a mass shooting at the Sousse coastal resort in June 2015, with 38 people killed. The Islamic State (IS) has claimed both attacks. A number of militant Islamist groups are present in the country, particularly in mountainous regions in the northwest, including Katibat Uqba bin Nafir (affiliated with al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb [AQIM]), Ansar al-Sharia Tunisia (AST), and IS-affiliated Jund al-Khilafah. These groups maintain a low-level insurgency, mostly targeting security forces within the western interior region, particularly the mountainous ranges of Kasserine, Kef, and Jendouba governorates.
A near-constant state of emergency has been in effect in Tunisia since June 2015, and was again extended by another month on May 16, 2017. According to estimates by the Ministry of the Interior, several thousand Tunisian nationals are currently fighting for IS and other armed groups in Iraq, Syria, and Libya, raising fears that they could return to Tunisia to perpetrate attacks.
Due to the terrorist threat, 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 (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 the Kasserine region, due to the presence of armed groups.