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Fifteen Years After the Djerba Synagogue Bombing

Aaron Y. Zelin

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CTC Sentinel

April 2017


Tunisia has had one of the largest foreign fighter mobilizations to the battlefields of Libya, Iraq, and Syria, so its outsize representation in the ranks of international terrorist operatives will likely persist well into the future.

Fifteen years ago this month, a Tunisian operative named Nizar Nawar detonated a truck bomb outside the el-Ghriba synagogue in Djerba, Tunisia, killing 19, including 16 German and French tourists. Orchestrated by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, it was al-Qa'ida's first successful international attack after 9/11, but it has received far less attention than other attacks launched by the group. Court documents, case files, and primary sources shed significant new light on the attack and al- Qa'ida's then modus operandi for international attack planning, which has both similarities and differences with recent international terrorist plots carried out by the Islamic State. In retrospect, the Djerba attack should have been a warning sign of the international threat posed by Tunisian foreign fighters, who are now one of the most dangerous cohorts within the Islamic State...

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