Will the “Ben Guerdane” Scenario Happen Again?

By: Fahed Khitan

تم نشره في Sun 13 March / Mar 2016. 01:00 AM
  • فهد الخيطان

The “Ben Guerdane” Operation —a Tunisian city, entails a serious development in the methods of the “ISIS” terrorist organisation. One that should be considered by all countries of the region facing the perils of terrorism and terrorist groups, to reflect on and draw lessons.

ISIS (i.e. Daesh) in their Ben Guerdane assault followed an innovative approach to shake the security situation in a relatively stable state; dozens of extremist terrorists attacking a small town out of the blue, taking control of its police stations and official buildings, holed up in its alleys in a way that required fierce urban confrontations that lasted for days before they were finally driven out.

The operation itself trialled the ability and readiness of Tunisian security forces, while the militant ISIS fighters —on the other hand, are not as naive as to think they can maintain control over the city for a long time. In short, the purpose of the incursion was to strike the public’s confidence in the capacities of the Country’s security agencies, and confirm the readiness of the terrorist organization to surprise and sneak vulnerable openings of the state, even if it cost them dozens of their own fighters.

Tunisian security forces absorbed the shock quickly, and dynamically regained lead, but were nonetheless forced into a bloody confrontation with the terrorists, putting Tunisia on the red list for several days, before they took out the group that attacked the city.

Now notably, the circumstances in Tunisia do not match those of other Arab countries; lax borders with neighbouring Libya —a forming hotbed for terrorists and a global source of threat, with thousands of Tunisian fighters among the ranks of terrorist groups, with hundreds of them gone back to Tunisia to implement deadly operations in the Country’s capital and other tourist cities.

But these differences, mindful of them, do not eliminate the possibility of another simulation of the “Ben Guerdane” experiment in other countries, with even better security capabilities.

The terrorist organisation’s success in penetrating Tunisian security, which suffers structural problems due to the transitional circumstances the state recently underwent, invited terrorists to develop their methods and progress from individual to mass organised attacks on cities forcibly subjecting them to their savagery.

The “first” attempt in Ben Guerdane failed, but it will —make no mistake, inspire members of the organization in Tunisia and other Arab countries. Simply speaking, they can pick out towns and neighbourhoods that are relatively far from traditional security hubs and stations, and attack these areas with a few tens of terrorists, and simply declare them part of their alleged state in Iraq and Syria. More so, it will not be easy to regain control of these areas; terrorists will make human shields out of unarmed populations for protection, and hole up in crowded residential areas to make the task of freeing these towns costly for both security forces and citizens, alike.

Typically, these bandits bet on the media to draw out a modular image and embarrass the state; it is enough, say for example they make the citizens of a certain town declare allegiance into a phone camera to the caliphate state and its prince, and instantly upload these videos to the internet.  

It is a terrifying scenario —fantastical some may say and inapplicable, but what happened in the Ben Guerdane sets off some bells, and confirms that these terrorist gangs would not hesitate to do any evil, whatsoever, to retain the spotlight, and survive under the suffocating siege imposed on the areas they control.