Tunisia arrests jihadists allegedly recruiting fighters for Syria

Tunis (dpa) - Tunisian authorities arrested seven members of a jihadist cell that was allegedly recruiting youth to fight in Syria, an interior ministry statement said on Tuesday.

The cell, arrested in the north-eastern province of Nabeul, was recruiting extremists online and encouraging them to join militants in war-torn Syria, the ministry said.

It did not say when the suspects were held, or provide details of their affiliation.

In May, the Tunisian foreign ministry announced the resumption of diplomatic ties with Syria and assigned a consul in Damascus after about three years of broken relations.

The interior ministry statement also said that 13 suspects were arrested on terrorism-related charges, but didn't give further details.

Authorities estimate the number of Tunisians fighting in Syria at about 3 000.

A UN mission to Tunisia in July said it had received information that some 4 000 Tunisians were fighting in Syria, with another 1 000 to 1 500 fighting in Libya.

In the same month, Tunisian Prime Minister al-Habeeb al-Sayed said security authorities had banned about 1 500 young men from travelling amid suspicions that they were heading to conflict zones to join the fighting.

Militants usually travel to Syria through Libya and Turkey.

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