TUNIS, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- The recent Algerian hostage crisis, with nearly 40 militants of seven nationalities ruthlessly hijacking more than 800 people, shocked the world. Notably, 11 Tunisians were among the abductors, the largest ratio in the group.
The presence of so many Tunisians among the ranks of assailants is not quite astonishing, observers said, as many Tunisian young men have joined Jihadist groups such as Jibhat Nusra and have been fighting against the Syrian regime.
What's more, hundreds of Tunisians (no precise numbers are available) have also joined the ranks of Ansar El Shaaria in northern Mali where France, in collaboration with Mali's army, launched a major ground and air operation to repel Islamic militants from Mali, Tunisian media reported.
In a recent interview with Radio Express FM, Christophe Chatelot, a French journalist working for the French newspaper Le Monde, did not exclude a spillover of the conflict in Mali to Tunisia.
Noticing tough security measures taken by France to protect its embassy in Tunisia, Chatelot said such a move was not random but dictated by "real threats."
The latest discovery of two warehouses full of weapons, including rockets and ground-to-air missiles in Tunisia's southern town of Medenine, is a reminder of danger in current geopolitical context.
So far, Tunisia's Ennahdha-led government has managed to circumvent the threats posed by increasing radicalization of young Tunisians affiliated to Salafist groups and parties. For example, Tunisia recently neutralized an al-Qaeda cell in Jendouba, near the border with Algeria.
However, "The country is literally treading on egg shells," Hichem Hlioui, an academic, told Xinhua.
Last year, radical Islamist groups attempted to bring the Tunisian university into pace with Islamic doctrine, including the imposition of Islamic socio-cultural behaviors. This is just a harbinger of bigger things to come, said Hlioui.
"As long as young Tunisians choose to fight Jihad on foreign battlefronts, we are still immune from the dangers facing other Arab countries, but the day may soon come when they will turn against their country," a security official told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
According to the official, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Tunisian Jihadists have left the country in recent months to join radical Islamic groups in Syria, Yemen and Mali, funded by Gulf monarchies.
"The lure of the deadly sirens of Jihad, fueled by joblessness, frustration and religious brainwashing, is increasingly attracting a great number of young Tunisians who have lost faith in their own country," he said.
To make things worse, announcements of potential terrorist attacks are hitting social utility websites, further sowing apprehension among the population in a country known for its moderation and profound dislike of violence.
Tunisia is in dire need of stability and unity to attract investors and tourists alike, many political analysts said.
The latest upsurge of Islamist strife, coupled with a growing insecurity among the population, helps little to alleviate the fear of radicalization of political life and erosion of relative freedom which came with the toppling of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali two years ago.