Tunisian Combatant Group

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Tunisian Combatant Group
Participant in the Global War on Terrorism
Active2000s
IdeologySalafi jihadism
Area of operationsTunisia
Western Europe
Split fromEnnahda Movement[1]
BecameAnsar al-Sharia (Tunisia)
Allies
Opponent(s)

The Tunisian Combatant Group (Arabic: الجماعة التونسية المقاتلة; Jama’a Combattante Tunisienne, French: Groupe Combattant Tunisien) or TCG was a loose network of terrorists with connections to Al-Qaeda that was founded in 2000 and aspired to install an Islamist government in Tunisia.[1] According to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), TCG is believed to have had terrorist cells in France, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and in the United Kingdom.[2] By the 2010s, after its founders had been arrested and a long period of silence, it was not clear whether the group still existed.[4]

History[edit]

The TCG was founded in 2000 by Tarek Ben Habib Maaroufi and Seifallah Ben Hassine, in close cooperation with al-Qaeda.[2][5] The group aimed to establish an Islamic state in Tunisia that would be ruled according to Sharia.[1][3][4] The strategy of the TCG was determined during a meeting in Khost, Afghanistan, where it declared its support for Osama bin Laden.[2] Most of its members were trained in al-Qaeda-linked camps in Afghanistan, and it later organised training for new recruits in the camps.[2] It has been described as an offshoot of the formerly banned Ennahda Movement.[1]

A number of the detainees held in extrajudicial detention in the United States Guantanamo Bay detainment camps in Cuba remain in detention, in part, because American intelligence analysts allege that they were members of TCG.

Maaroufi was arrested by Belgian authorities in December 2001, and in 2004 was sentenced to five years imprisonment.[3] Since 2004 the TCG did not have capabilities to operate in Tunisia, and consequently moved their base to the Tunisian diaspora in Western Europe.[4][6]

Hassine was arrested by Turkish authorities in 2003, after which he was extradited to Tunisia, where he was sentenced to 43 years imprisonment.[7] Following the Arab Spring and the Tunisian Revolution in 2011, Hassine was released from prison as part of a general amnesty and went on to found the militant Ansar al-Sharia group.[8]

The TCG is considered inactive due to the arrest of its founders, Maaroufi and Hassine. There are no figures for the number of members that were in the TCG, but the Ansar al-Sharia is thought to have up to 40,000 members.[9]

European branches[edit]

The TCG had branches in several European countries.[2] The Italian branch of the organisation was led by Sami ben Khemais Essid, and was dismantled by law enforcement in April 2001.[2] Essid's group was connected to the "Frankfurt group," which was responsible for the Strasbourg Cathedral bombing plot in December 2000.[2] Also in December of 2000, the Tunisian Combatant Group was suspected of plotting to attack the United States, Algerian, and Tunisian embassies in Rome.[10] Several members of the TCG in Italy were convicted for terror-related activities in 2003.[3]

The Belgian branch of the TCG was led by Maaroufi, and was responsible for organizing the travel to Afghanistan of the two terrorists who assassinated the anti-Taliban Afghan political leader Ahmad Shah Massoud on 9 September 2001.[2] The perpetrators were two suicide bombers who were members of the TCG that posed as journalists.[9] In connection to the murder, TCG founder Tarek Maaroufi was arrested and charged with giving assistance, in the form of passports and stolen visas, to the two bombers.[9] The Belgian branch has since also been dismantled.[2] Kamel ben Moussa, an official of the group was arrested in the United Kingdom on 18 December 2001.[2]

Foreign Relations[edit]

Designation as a terrorist organization[edit]

Countries and organizations below have officially listed the Tunisian Combat Group as a terrorist organization.

Country Date References
 United Nations 10 October 2002 [2]
 United States 20 December 2004 [11]
 Israel [12]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "The TCG". Overseas Security Advisory Council (USA). Archived from the original on 28 December 2005.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "QDe.090 TUNISIAN COMBATANT GROUP". United Nations Security Council (UNSC). 7 April 2011. Retrieved 12 August 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d e Tan, Andrew T .H. (2010). Politics of Terrorism: A Survey. Routledge. p. 219. ISBN 9781136833366.
  4. ^ a b c The World Almanac of Islamism: 2014. Rowman & Littlefield. 2014. p. 345. ISBN 9781442231443.
  5. ^ Aftergood, Steven (May 21, 2003). "The Tunisian Combatant Group (TCG)". Retrieved 2019-02-26.
  6. ^ Davis, John (2012). Terrorism in Africa: The Evolving Front in the War on Terror. Lexington Books. p. 167. ISBN 9780739135778.
  7. ^ icct.nl: "Raising the Stakes: Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia’s Shift to Jihad", Feb 2014
  8. ^ "Al Qaeda ally orchestrated assault on US Embassy in Tunisia". Long War Journal. 2 October 2012. Retrieved 12 August 2014.
  9. ^ a b c "US freezes assets of al-Qaeda allied group linked to Masood-killing". Agence France Presse. October 10, 2002. Retrieved April 16, 2019.
  10. ^ Arieff, Humud, Alexis, Carla (October 22, 2002). "Political Transition in Tunisia". Congressional Research Service.
  11. ^ "Terrorist Exclusion List". Overseas Security Advisory Council (USA). 29 December 2004. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-08-10. Retrieved 2014-08-09.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)