TUNISIA

Are these photos of jihadists training – or a Boy Scout camp?

Following an anti-terrorism operation in Menzel Nour, a town in Tunisia’s Monastir governorate, the interior ministry held a press conference on Monday to present what it says was photographic “proof” of a jihadist camp. This was meant to justify the sting, which was decried by many locals. However, Internet sleuths pointed out that some of the photos were taken in 2010 – at a Boy Scout camp.. 

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On the left, a video screen capture showing a photo presented during the press conference. On the right, the same photo published on Facebook back in 2011.

 

 

Following an anti-terrorism operation in Menzel Nour, a town in Tunisia’s Monastir governorate, the interior ministry held a press conference on Monday to present what it says was photographic “proof” of a jihadist camp. This was meant to justify the sting, which was decried by many locals. However, Internet sleuths pointed out that some of the photos were taken in 2010 – at a Boy Scout camp.

 

Screen capture of a video showing a photo presented at the press conference.

 

The same photo, published in early 2011 on Facebook.

 

The photos were presented as “recent” images of “a group working to recruit and fund youths to go to Syria”. The ministry’s spokesperson added that one of the men photographed had been arrested. Responding to a question from a journalist, he said Tunisian security forces obtained the photos. However, Internet users quickly found four of the photos in an album posted on Facebook in 2011 entitled “Scouts of Menzel Nour”.

 

Screen capture of a video showing photos presented at the press conference.

 

The same photo, published in 2011 on Facebook.

 

Marwen Belhaj Ammar, who posted the photos on his Facebook page in 2011, responded on Wednesday by posting a photo of his scout group in uniform:

 

“Dear Tunisian people, the photos shown by the interior ministry yesterday as photos of terrorists are just photos of scouts in Menzel Nour carrying out activities at their camp. For goodness’ sake, please stop making false accusations, stop this injustice and stop destroying the youth.”

 

A national spokesperson for Tunisia’s Scouts has confirmed the photos were ten at a scout camp in Monastir, and said they were taken in 2010. He added that no one arrested during the sting in Menzel Nour had even been part of the Tunisian Scouts.

 

Eleven people were arrested during the sting last week, seven of whom remain in detention. Clashes between residents and police broke out in response. According to our contacts in the region, residents of the twon – mainly Salafists and family members of those detained – once again gathered outside the town’s police station on Wednesday to call for the detainees’ release.

“Showing these controversial images only added fuel to the fire”

Our Observer Zied Hadj lives a few kilometres from Menzel Nour.

 

The people arrested during the police operation were Salafists; that’s widely known here. What the police still need to prove is their claims that they found weapons at their homes.

 

After the altercations that followed the operation, the residents of Menzel Nour waited eagerly for the press conference, as they wanted proof and details on the reasons for the arrests. But showing these controversial images only added fuel to the fire.

 

The people of Menzel Nour saw this incident as a deliberate attempt to stigmatise their town, which is often in the news, particularly because it contains some bad neighbourhoods where crime is high.