Tunisia has arrested two American brothers on charges that they were planning a terror attack while in the Mediterranean country.
According to TunisiaLive, the unnamed brothers are from Michigan, are 32 and 33 years old and were renting a house in Jendouba, a city on the northwest side of the country near the Algerian border. Local residents became suspicious of the pair and contacted authorities, the news site said.
A spokesman for Tunisia’s Ministry of Interior said the brothers told police they were studying computer science at the University of Jendouba, but that was doubted as they “were heavily bearded, unwashed and living in poor conditions.”
One is said to have entered into an urfi, or Islamic union not registered with the state, with a Tunisian girl, who was arrested in Tunis today. A security official told Reuters that she had traveled to Syria.
MosaiqueFM reported that the brothers were recent converts to Islam and admitted to investigators that they wanted to “apply the Sharia.” Jihadist materials and plans were reportedly discovered when cops raided their home. Nessma TV reported that those plans outlined intentions to “blow up a number of institutions.” An official told Reuters that the jihadist materials included videos and photos praising ISIS.
TunisiaLive reported that the brothers had United Arab Emirates stamps in their passports.
Tunisia has been particularly on guard about the growth of terrorism since a pair of attacks last year targeted their traditionally lucrative tourism industry. In March 2015, three terrorists attacked the Bardo National Museum, with European tourists comprising the majority of the 22 people killed. Three months later, 40 people were killed — again, most of them on holiday — attacked two resort hotels at Port El Kantaoui near Sousse. Tourism was down 35 percent this year, with tourism originating from the UK down 98 percent in Sousse.
The State Department updated its Tunisia travel warning on Sept. 29 to warn U.S. citizens to “avoid travel to southeastern Tunisia along the Libyan border as well as the mountainous areas in the country’s west, due to the threat of terrorism.”
“Groups of militants continue to operate in the mountains of Western Tunisia, including Jebel Chaambi, Sammama, and Selloum. The Tunisian government continues security force operations against Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia (AAS-T), ISIL, and al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM),” the warning said.
Jendouba was singled out as a city U.S. citizens should avoid “due to the unpredictable security environment.”