Tunisia: Escaped Prisoners Exacerbate Terrorism Fears Locally, Abroad

by | Nov 6, 2023 | Political, Security, Tunisia


On 31 October 2023, the Ministry of the Interior reported that five “dangerous” individuals had escaped from Mornaguia Prison south of the capital city of Tunis.  

The government issued warnings that the five escapees were convicted terrorists and posed a public safety threat. Large deployments of security forces were reported in Tunis as the manhunt continued. 

On 3 November 2023, a bank robbery in a southern suburb of Tunis was attributed to the group of escapees. 

In comments regarding the incident, President Kais Saied indicated that the escape was assessed to have been planned and facilitated for months. Multiple prison officials were fired in the days following the escape. 

The government issued pictures and descriptions of the escapees, calling for citizens to report any sightings. 

  • Ahmed al-Maliki, who is referred to as “The Somali,” was convicted of playing a role in the 2014 assassination of opposition political figure Chokri Belaid. 
  • Amer al-Balazi was arrested in 2018 for being involved in the assassinations of political opposition figures Chokri Belaid and Mohamed al-Brahmi. 
  • Raed Touati was affiliated with a terrorist group in Kasserine that expressed loyalty to al-Qaeda. The group conducted terrorist attacks targeting Tunisian security forces in the Chaambi Mountain area. 
  • Nader al-Ghanami joined ISIS in Syria before returning to Tunisia, where he participated in an operation that killed a member of the Tunisian security forces. 
  • Aladdin Ghazouani was serving a 26-year jail sentence on unspecified terrorism charges



The orchestration of a large-scale escape of multiple terrorists points to the existing and expanding terrorism risk in Tunisia. In order to conduct such an operation, the escapees likely had significant support both inside and outside of the prison from individuals sympathetic to their ideology, raising questions about the state of radicalization in Tunisia. 

The escape also comes on the heels of the murder of two Swedish citizens in Brussels by a convicted Tunisian terrorist who escaped prison and irregularly migrated to Europe. The parallels in the Brussels shooting case and the most recent escapes will likely raise additional concerns about Tunisia’s ability to contain security threats. 

According to one UN report, there are five broad categories of drivers that, if present, can be “conducive to violent extremism.” Depending on their situation and perspective, many Tunisians could argue they face 3-4 of these drivers, if not all 5:  

  • Lack of socio-economic opportunities;  
  • Marginalization and discrimination;  
  • Poor governance, violations of human rights and the rule of law;  
  • Prolonged and unresolved conflicts, and;  
  • Radicalization in prisons.  

As many of Tunisia’s challenges go unaddressed, our team is continuing to monitor the environment for indications that the terrorism risk is rising.


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