Rival protests in front of the parliament building in the Tunisian capital of Tunis on Saturday saw secular forces face off against Islamists. As a report from Euronews put it, many of the latter “supported Ennahda, the moderate Muslim party most successful in October’s elections.” But look carefully to the right of the image at about the 0:07 point of the Euronews video. You will see at least two demonstrators waving the distinctive black flag of al-Qaeda.
The flag can also be seen in a photo that accompanies detailed reporting from the protests on the Tunisian news website, Tunisia-Live.net.
The Tunisia-Live caption reads: “Pro-Ennahda demonstrators arrive at #OccupyBardo.” The parliament building is located in the Bardo district of greater Tunis. Here is a closer look at the flag:
The appearance of the same flag recently in post-Qaddafi Libya sparked a remarkably scholastic discussion in American foreign policy circles as to whether the flag is “really” the al-Qaeda flag or merely “affirms support for Islam.” The writing on the flag represents the shahada or Islamic declaration of faith: “There is no god but God [Allah] and Mohammed is the messenger of God.”
The flag in question is that made famous by Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi’s al-Qaeda in Iraq, a.k.a. the “Islamic State of Iraq,” before being adopted by other al-Qaeda affiliates and numerous jihadist internet forums. The below image may serve as a reminder of the sort of context in which the flag gained notoriety. It shows nine members of the Iraqi security services being executed by al-Qaeda in Iraq:
— John Rosenthal writes on European politics and transatlantic security issues. You can follow his work at www.trans-int.com or on Facebook.