Anyone else noticing a pattern here?
On Sept. 14, the US embassy in Tunis came under assault. The American staff evacuated the embassy unscathed, but the attackers hoisted an al Qaeda-style black flag high above the emptied compound and ransacked American property.
The embassy siege eventually led to a tense standoff at the El Fateh mosque in Tunis, after the man suspected of leading the embassy attack gave a rousing speech to his followers inside. That man is Seifallah ben Hassine, otherwise known as Abu Iyad al Tunisi.
Hassine has long worked with and for al Qaeda. After fleeing Tunisia in the 1990s, Hassine ended up in the UK, where he studied under Abu Qatada, a well-known al Qaeda cleric. Like so many other international jihadists, Hassine made his way to the Taliban’s Afghanistan, weaving a web of connections to nefarious actors across the globe.
Today, Hassine leads Ansar al Sharia Tunisia, a radical Salafist group with at least hundreds of followers. The group’s muscle is enough to challenge the Tunisian government’s authority. Even though the El Fateh mosque was surrounded by government personnel, hundreds of Hassine loyalists escorted him out of the building.
Hassine evaded capture and remains at large.