TS Update-(Renewed State of Emergency)

Greetings Expats,

It’s interesting to note that we’ve been living under a “state of emergency” for over two years now.  We should really start having “state of emergency renewal meetups”…

Interesting Point

It’s interesting to point out that President Marzouki “announced at the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa earlier in the week that the state of emergency would not be renewed at the end of January.”

So what happened?

Officially they cited “armed clashes with militant groups on the borders and internal unrest” as the main reasons for the extension but there are at least 4 other significant factors that played a part.

4 Additional Factors (from lowest to highest)

1.  Al Qaeda issues threat:  Although the threats were primarily directed to the United States and France, the situation in Mali and border security would cause a Tunisian military adviser to take these threats seriously.  

2.  The Mali Situation:  Think Tunisia is not connected to Mali?  Think again.  As recent as Wednesday, January 30th:  Two Tunisians were arrested at the Tunisian-Algerian border as they tried to make their way to join the armed Islamic group in northern Mali.  

3.  Police Protest:  Here’s one where the math simply does not add up:  “Tunisia’s moderate Islamist government has said al Qaeda-linked militants have been accumulating weapons with the aim of creating an Islamic state” vs.  Thousands of policemen protested outside the Tunisian prime minister’s office on Thursday demanding better pay, equipment and protection AND stating that they do not have the appropriate resources to deal with the threat from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

4.  Because they can:  Simply put:  The state of emergency, grants special powers of police intervention…enough said.

Expat Readiness

The state of emergency has been extended. As Expats we should take this opportunity to review our security setup.  This means making sure the we’re informed (Good Information Flow…Know what’s really going on)…connected (Good & Reliable Connection to our communities)…prepared (Ready to Adapt & Overcome).  

Continue to explore and thrive…We’ll keep searching, analyzing and sharing empowering security information.

TS Update-(Taxi…Personal Safety)

Greetings Expats,

So much information coming my way…so much to share.  Receiving in-depth analysis on regional developments from professional contacts and solid insights from fellow Expats.

While considering all this information, I always remember to turn on my “practical & relevant filter”.  I believe the worst thing a security advisor can do is to fill people with fear and negativity.

Moving on…

While reading one of those thick reports about the developing security situation in North Africa, an Expat friend stopped by to share with me something which really caught my attention.

Without going into all the details, he made me aware of the new security & personal safety risks that Expats face when it comes to taking taxis.

Now, I know for some this is a trivial issue, but believe me when I say that we have good information that indicates that when it comes to taxis; we need to take more precautions.

Taxis Tips & Guidance

Like everything else that concerns security, good taxi safety awareness comes down to:

Building Relationships-Situational Awareness-Good Decisions 

  1. Follow your intuition:  If you get a bad feeling about the taxi, either because of the appearance of the vehicle, driver, or something else; don’t hesitate to pass it up and catch the next one.  Remember, once you’ve closed the door; you’ve made a choice.
  2. Situational Awareness:  Memorize or record the taxi number and driver’s name if possible.

  3. Confirm your destination with the taxi driver. Make sure that they know where you want to go and they know where that is.  If he starts giving you “attitude” about your destination, that’s a good reason to walk out.  

Here are additional tips shared by other Expats:  

  1. “Always insist that the meter is put on. Do not be afraid to leave the taxi if the driver will not put it on (The writer once abandoned 7 taxis on a trip to Sousse).”-Dealing with Taxi Drivers
  2. “In Tunisia, when native women take a taxi alone, they will usually ride in the back of the taxi to prevent the driver from getting “strange ideas”.-TunisPro

Taxi Precaution

 Lastly, I would like to share that I also received an interesting email by an Expat who was specifically told to avoid taxis on Monday, January 28th.  According to the Expat, the taxi driver shared this information because he “thought she was Tunisian”.  The taxi driver mentioned protests and other safety concerns, but the Expat was unable to understand if he meant that taxi drivers would protest on Monday or if he was referring to something else.

As always we share this with the intention of empowering fellow Expats with practical & relevant information.

Thank you for all the informative emails and updates.  Let’s keep working together.  

TS Update-(Personal Security Review)

Greetings Expats,
We took a field trip today to Borj El Amri (a town in the Manouba Governorate of Tunisia), located 30 kilometres southwest of Tunis.  The trip was uneventful and we had a lovely time at our destination.
On our way to and from we noticed a lot of police check points pulling over mostly Peugeot Partner style vehicles or pick ups.  Unlike “normal” check points,  Tunisian Security Forces appeared focused and ready.
This observation along with the article in Almonitor entitled:  Tunisia Deals with French Intervention in Mali, clearly underscores the growing concern that:
“The security forces are continuing their search, which means that they have information of more weapons caches and terrorists, probably belonging to the extremist group al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).”

Preparedness before Panic  
While it’s reassuring to see security forces out in higher numbers, there are reasons for concern.  In one of our recent postings we stated that:
In our opinion, Tunisia is currently serving as a strategic point for jihadist groups that are more focus on countries like Syria and Mali.  This arrangement, along with other factors, is the main reason why we have not seen more violent activities involving weapons.
Almonitor’s article supports this theory:  “Leaked reports said that many of the terrorists who carried out the Jan. 15 attack on gas facilities in southern Algeria have managed to slip into Tunisia. There is information that two 4×4-type vehicles carrying gunmen entered Tunisia.”

Personal Security Review
Now is a great time to conduct a personal security review. With pen and paper in hand, take 15 minutes to review your routines and weekly activities   Then start with Monday and write down your activities in chronological order.  After you have completed this task ask yourself the following question:
Are your routines easy to monitor?  (Are you predictable?)
By doing this small survey you can make the necessary adjustments to avoid being a victim of a crime or worse.  
We are receiving good information and we will continue to share  with the goal of empowering the Expat Community in Tunis.  Feel free to contact us for more information concerning our Situational Awareness Training Program.  

TS Update-(Travel Warnings Lessons)

Greetings Expats,

I wanted to provide some analysis on the recent State Department travel warnings and more importantly shed some light on how we as Expats can use their general advise to improve our security setup.

While a review of the recent updates are alarming, we can learn a lot from them.

State Department Travel Warnings (full travel warnings can be read by clicking on the country’s link)

Tunisia:  “The security situation in Tunisia remains unpredictable. Sporadic episodes of civil unrest have occurred throughout the country. U.S. citizens should avoid large crowds and demonstrations as even demonstrations that are intended to be peaceful can become violent and unpredictable. U.S. citizens should be alert and aware of their surroundings and maintain security awareness at all times, and should regularly monitor the local news media for current news and information.”

Mali:  “On January 18, the Department of State ordered the departure of all dependent family members who are not employed at the U.S. Embassy in Bamako, Mali, for a period of up to 30 days.”

Algeria:  “On January 19, 2013, the Department of State authorized the departure from Algiers for eligible family members following the attack on the In Amenas BP Oil facility on January 16, 2013 and subsequent, credible threats of the kidnapping of western nationals.”

Libya:  “On September 12, the Department of State ordered the departure of all non-emergency U.S. government personnel from Libya following the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi. The security situation in Libya remains unpredictable.”

Morocco:  “The potential for terrorist violence against U.S. interests and citizens remains high in Morocco. Moroccan authorities continue to disrupt groups seeking to attack U.S. or Western-affiliated and Moroccan government targets, arresting numerous individuals associated with international terrorist groups. With indications that such groups still seek to carry out attacks in Morocco.”

A Region in Flux
A Region in Flux

Improving our Security Setup

It’s difficult for someone without a “security background” to take all the information that’s out there (travel warnings, in-depth analysis, open source intelligence  etc.) and turn it into something practical that will actually improve their personal security setup.

The latest State Department travel warning for Tunisia, included some helpful tips that every Expat can benefit from.

Info:  “U.S. citizens remaining in Tunisia should use extreme caution and avoid demonstrations, make their own contingency emergency plans…”

Expat:  Avoid demonstrations.  Know when & where they are going to take place.  The big ones are usually announce well in advanced.

“Make their own contingency emergency plans…”  I received a lot of emails on this issue.  Simply put,  you need to make sure:  (a)  Your residence is safe & secure and you’re comfortable spending 3-7 days there without any support. and (b) You’re prepared to travel on short notice.

Of course there is a lot information available on family contingency emergency planning, but a “security mindset” is better than any lengthy plan.

Security Mindset

Developing a security mindset is all about taking a proactive approach to your security setup.  This means staying informed & connected at all times.  Informed with practical & relevant security information and connected to a strong core group of friends, neighbors, colleagues and contacts that you can rely on during challenging situations.

Empowering expats to accomplish this is both our mission & passion.  Let’s keep the conversation going.  

 

 

 

TS Update-(Expats Alerted)

Greetings Expats,

After the major hostage crisis in eastern Algeria, security and political officials throughout North Africa are busy adjusting to the new security reality.  

Many analysts have stated that the terrorist threat Tunisia faces remains low mainly because of their capable counter-terrorism capabilities.  Additionally, unlike other “Arab Spring” countries, Tunisia does not have a history of internal strife, sectarian divide, or terrorism for that matter.  

If we were able to put all the information concerning the security situation in Tunisia into a machine that could somehow calculate  the risk of terrorism…I believe the machine would say HIGH...

Yet…when you speak to professionals on the ground …people who get paid to make these kinds of assessments, they usually take a deep breath, sit back in their chair, spend 10 minutes talking about all the security challenges in Tunisia and label the threat:  Low-Medium.

Tunisia is Strategic 

Known:  Tunisia thwarted an attempt by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) to establish a terror cell in the western regions of Kasserine and Jendouba- (December 13th 2012):

Assumption:  al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is “active” within Tunisia

For the past 3 months there’s been a wave of information concerning weapons proliferation and arrests which leads to the question:  

Why isn’t anything major happening?  

The answer has to do with the 3-key factors

  1. We’ve moved from mobs to organized threats
  2. We’re dealing with patient groups 
  3. Strategic importance of Tunisia

Let’s be honest…

It is well documented that Tunisians are well represented within  jihadist movements.   The Guardian’s Martin Chulov wrote an excellent article on the challenges within Syria that underlines this point:

“A rebel commander told a story, as a warning of the dangers al-Qaida represented to Syrian society. Late last year the leaders of some towns in the Aleppo hinterland and the rebel commanders who move between them received word of a visitor.

“He was a Tunisian,” said the commander. “And he said he brought a message on behalf of Ayman al-Zawahiri [al-Qaida’s leader]. He asked us to join him and said there would be benefits for us if we did. He asked me to pledge a bayaa [oath of allegiance] to al-Qaida. I said no. This is what we all must do. If we continue with them, the Syria of our dreams will instead haunt our children in their nightmares.”

Right Now

My humble opinion is that Tunisia is currently serving as a strategic point for jihadist groups that are more focus on countries like Syria and Mali.  This arrangement, along with other factors, is the main reason why we have not seen more violent activities involving weapons.

The time is now for Expats to evaluate their personal security.  Ask yourself the following questions:

1.  Are you receiving  good information regarding the security situation in Tunisia?  Practical as well as big picture analysis.

2.  Are you exercising good situational awareness? Make sure you are varying your routes and know where/when to explore.

In these challenging times we need to stay level-headed and connected.  The best way we’ll do this is by sharing information that not only informs but also empowers.

TS Update-(Shrines, Flags, and Embassies)

Greetings Expats,

We’re starting off the year strong with so much going on.  I would like to remind all subscribers about our Tunisia Security Update Facebook Page which we are using to post relevant & informative articles.  Additionally, you can follow us on Twitter @DavidSecurity for quick updates.

And now for this week’s update…

I was inspired to write this week’s post after reading several sad messages by my friends on facebook who were very upset about the fire that took place on Saturday at the Sidi Bou Said Mausoleum.

This trend is alarming and as Expats we need to make sure we are well informed about this latest incident.

Shrines

Away from the media spotlight salafists have targeted no less than 20 shrines belonging to Sufi saints.  The latest incident, which took place on Saturday, January 12 at Sidi Bou Said, has struck a chord within the Expat community.

As was the case with the art gallery incident, the burning of the Sidi Bou Said Moslem is prime example of the negative consequences of politicizing security.

Although most are quick to blame the “salafists”…we have to understand that we are witnessing a very competitive political election cycle and there are many challenges ahead.

The stakes are high and as with most political campaigns deception will take center stage.  

Flags

The salafists black flag remains at the heart of their movement and by analyzing the various “flag incidents”, one can easily see why they are operating so freely these days.

Incident:  The headline said it all:  Scandalous Flag Incident at Mannouba University:  A Wake-up call

Action:  On March 7th a student at the university took down the Tunisian flag from the rooftop of the university and replaced it with the salafi black flag

Reaction:  Minimal actions taken against protesters.  Situation in Mannouba University remains unstable.

Consequence:  Embolden Salafists

Embassies

We all know what happened on September 14, 2012…but on at least 4 occasions  protesters were allowed to assemble, burn the American flag, and taunt security forces without any consequences.

Incident:  “The U.S. embassy in Tunis, a modern fortress-like building, sits on the main road linking the capital to suburban Carthage. Yet since the government categorized the planned protest as an assemblée, or gathering, the organizers did not require an official permit to march on the embassy. With weak coordination between the various branches of Tunisia’s security forces, the stage seemed set for trouble.”-Read full article

Nicely put:  “Sidi Bou Said is so beautiful, in fact, that many artists have taken up residence here.The town is also said to have inspired famous artist Paul Klee, and famous writer Andre Gide.”

Let’s hope it keeps inspiring Tunisians for a better tomorrow    

Once again let’s continue to share information and stay connected.  

 

 

2012 Tunisia Security Update Blog Review

Thank you for all your support in 2012.  We feel more motivated than ever to continue our mission of empowering Expats living in Tunisia with practical & relevant security information.

WordPress.com  prepared a 2012 annual report for the Tunisia Security Update Blog.  Once again thank you for your support and be on the lookout for our new and improved services.

Here’s an excerpt of the report:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 15,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 3 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.