MENASTREAM ID #2: Sami Ben Béchir Ben Mohamed Bouras – SDGT by the US Department of State

In a press release on Thursday March 30, 2017 the US Department of State announced the designation of five individuals as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs), among these five the Swedish-Tunisian Sami Bouras. The information concerning Bouras in the press release was limited to a sentence and lacked precision regarding his personal information, although given the aliases “Wakrici” and “Khadim”.

Mugshot of Sami Bouras

Bouras’ full name is Sami Ben Béchir Ben Mohamed Bouras, born in Djerba Midoun on May 6, 1975, Bouras is married and have a daughter. Bouras story begins in 2003 when Ben Ali’s political police arrested him at his family home in Menzel Bourguiba (Bizerte Governorate), together with eleven others accused of having formed an “association with the aim to carry out attacks in order to spread terror and fear”, in other words a terrorist cell. The case came to be known as “the youths of Ariana”. The concerned individuals were all convicted to prison sentences ranging from four to sixteen years, Bouras was sentenced to four years in prison and five years administrative control.

After Bouras had served a year and a half of his sentence, the Ministry of Interior and Local Development decided in April 2005 that Bouras was to be released on parole in November later that year. The time after Bouras release was characterized by frequent visits by the police, judicial harassments and another two-month detention. In order to get rid of the administrative control Bouras was “offered” to become an informant, after rejecting the offer he was told he had violated his parole and another round in court awaited, in front of the court house, Bouras decided to escape and went underground.

In November 2006, following a difficult period in clandestinity, Bouras fled to Libya, from where he managed to get to Italy. In the summer of 2007, Bouras arrived in Marseille, France, and in early 2008 he came to Sweden where he seeked political asylum. Constantly living under the threat of extradition due to his pending asylum application. In a statement dated June 5, 2009, the Tunisian Association for the Defence of Political Prisoners called on Sweden to not extradite Bouras due to the possibility of him being subjected to torture.

Mid-2009 in Tunisia, nine individuals are arrested accused of plotting to kill US soldiers taking part in joint exercises with the Tunisian Armed Forces. In July 2010, eight individuals are sentenced to long prison terms, among them Sami Bouras. Convicted in absentia, Bouras received a twelve and a half year prison term and five years administrative control. Lawyer Samir Ben Amor, who is also the secretary general of the aforementioned Association for the Defence of Political Prisoners said that the accused denied the charges against them and that their confessions were obtained under torture. Ben Amor well-known in Tunisia for defending terrorist suspects.

A month later in August in northeastern Baluchistan, a Tunisian travelling without documents is arrested in Loralai. The individual arrested is Sahbi Zalouti, a Tunisian residing in Sweden, detained in Quetta and sentenced to ten days in jail for having entered the country without travelling documents. According to Zalouti, he was travelling the country to meet “fellow muslims and to spread information about Islam”.

Late December 2010, three individuals are arrested in an apartment outside Copenhagen, a fourth individual arrested in an apartment north of Stockholm, the individual in question, Pakistan returnee Sahbi Zalouti. The arrested had been under surveillance with the arrests carried out in cooperation between Danish and Swedish security services. The intended plan was to attack the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, which had stirred controversy for publishing a serie of drawings of the Prophet Muhammad, including the Prophet portrayed as a terrorist. During the trial in 2012 in Denmark, Zalouti admitted in a hearing that Bouras had slept over during a couple of nights in his apartment. Hence, links between individuals part of a presumed Al-Qaeda network. Highlighting this, Zalouti travelling in territory with Taliban and Al-Qaeda presence. Another defendant in the case of Jyllands-Posten, the Lebanon-born Swedish citizen Munir Awad, arrested in Somalia in 2007 suspected of having joined Al-Qaeda’s Somali affiliate al-Shabaab, Awad also arrested in Waziristan, Pakistan in August 2009 (same month as Zalouti’s arrest in Baluchistan). Another of the defendants in the aforementioned case, Tunisian Mounir Dhahri, travelled to Taliban-controlled Waziristan in the summer of 2010, upon his return, his compatriot Zalouti picked him up in Brussels.

Photo of Bouras’ temporary asylum seeker card issued by the Swedish Migration Agency

It is believed that Bouras had travelled to Syria in 2013. According to the American Department of State, a member of Al-Qaeda (AQ), most likely a reference to AQ’s proxy in Syria, currently carrying the name Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, previously Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, and before that Jabhat al-Nusra. The State Department’s announcement said that Bouras was involved in planning the group’s suicide attacks, or the term used by the group itself “Martyrdom Operations”.