Five Islamist convicts escape from Tunisian jail, government sacks intelligence officials

By Tarek Amara

TUNIS (Reuters) – Five Islamist prisoners convicted of killing two secular politicians and policemen escaped from a Tunisian jail on Tuesday, in a rare security breach for the North African country, prompting the government to dismiss top intelligence officials.

Security sources said the men were “very dangerous terrorists”. The interior ministry published the names and photos of the escaped convicts and urged citizens to contact the police if they see them.

The five men included Ahmed Malki, known as “the Somali”, who had been serving a 24-year sentence for the assassination of secular politicians Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi in 2013.

The interior ministry said in a statement that the minister dismissed two top officials in intelligence services.

The spokesman of Tunisian prison Ramzi Kouki said that the justice minister also dismissed the director of Mornaguia prison, which is the biggest prison in the country,

Another of the five, Rayd Touati, was arrested in 2019 and was sentenced to death by a Tunisian court earlier this year.

Security sources say Touati had taken part in the most violent attacks that have shaken Tunisia in the past decade. He had also killed a policeman in 2014 in the Chaambi Mountains near the Algerian border.

Tunisia has suffered attacks by jihadist groups since the advent of democracy in 2011 that have killed dozens of policemen, foreign tourists and others. It has had some success in recent years in arresting or killing prominent Islamist militants.

Remnants of Islamic State and al-Qaeda remain active in the mountains near the border with Algeria, security sources say.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by Gareth Jones)