Frustration after Tunisia border shut over deadly blast

Author : Mircea Birca | Wednesday, December 2, 2015
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Petrol prices spiked, shops closed and trucks that plied the desert to Libya have vanished since Tunisia shut the border following a deadly bus bombing in the capital.

In the town of Ben Guerdane, and across south-eastern Tunisia, the mood is morose with residents concerned for their future since authorities imposed the 15-day border closure last week.

The decision was taken as part of security measures following Tuesday’s suicide bombing that killed 12 presidential guards in Tunis, which was claimed by the Islamic State group.

Authorities say the attack, like two others this year claimed by ISIS, was planned in Libya where the jihadist group has exploited chaos that spread since the 2011 revolution to gain a

presence.

“The terrorists attack in the centre of the capital, 200m from the interior ministry, and we 600km away must pay the price,” said Nejib, a teacher, in Ben Guerdane.

According to him, the first sign of trouble came when fuel prices surged.

“On Wednesday 20 litres of petrol cost 6.5 dinars (less than €3) and on Friday 20 dinars (€9),” he said.

Ben Guerdane and the surrounding region depend on black market trade with Libya, where smugglers also benefit from lawlessness that spread since the revolution that toppled and killed dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

The closure of the border for nearly a month in 2014 following differences between the two neighbours had fuelled tensions in Ben Guerdane, with protests and strikes.

“We are all against terrorism but this is not a solution. And after the 15 days, what’s going to happen?” asked Abdelfattah, who deals in contraband petrol and electrical appliances.

Tunisia’s secretary of state for national security, Rafik Chelly, has said that the border closure is a “temporary” measure to give authorities time to mull what they should do next.

He did not rule out a decision to impose entry visas on Libyans.

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