Luke Skywalker in Tatooine
Luke Skywalker in Tatooine

CNN reported this week that Isis recruits have been using the Tunisian town of Tataouine as a stop off point on their way to Libya.

This struggling town on the fringes of the Sahara still draws a few fans of the movie but now finds itself part of a real conflict, as a way-station for jihadists crossing the Libyan border 60 miles to the east.

The town, in the south-east of the country, was the inspiration for Tatooine - the home planet of Luke Skywalker in Star Wars.

However fans of the films need not fear that the iconic film set is about to be destroyed like so many other historically significant structures across the Middle East. Contrary to follow-up reports, the terrorist group has not invaded the set used in the films.

In fact, the majority of filming in Tunisia took place in the deserts far to the west - in towns like Matmata and Tozeur - and on the island of Djerba to the north, which have since become tourist hotspots.

As StarWars.com explains:

While Tataouine was not used in any of the movies, it is obviously the inspiration for the name of the desert planet that till that point was known as Utapau.

CNN reports that three men were recently arrested in the town and that two arms caches - containing rocket-propelled grenade launchers and more than 20,000 rounds of ammunition - were also found.

Map showing Tataouine with the Libyan border to the south-east (Picture: Google Maps)

Speaking to i100.co.uk, Chatham House's North Africa expert Jon Marks explained that "dusty small towns" like Tataouine have made for "ideal recruiting grounds for ultra-radical groups" in recent years.

With little growth since [the Tunisian revolution], those regions' economic ambitions remain far from fruition: towns like Tataouine haven't seen many film crews since Obi Wan-Kenobi departed, and the cave dwellers of Matmata have seen the living they eked from tourism fall since the 2011 revolution.

Not only do these dismal economics give rise to alienation, but the region's conservative social and religious outlook make for ideal recruiting grounds for ultra-radical groups.

  • Jon Marks, Chatham House
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