Two U.S. citizens were arrested by police in Tunisia on Tuesday on suspicion of encouraging terrorist activities, according to reports from the North African country. The two men, who have not been named, are brothers originally from Michigan and were arrested from a town near the country’s border with Algeria.
According to a spokesman for Tunisia’s Ministry of Interior, the two brothers claimed to have come to Tunisia to study computer science at the University of Jendouba, TunisiaLive reported. However, sources in the Jendouba police department told the website that the U.S. citizens, aged 32 and 33, were not students. Some other outlets previously reported their ages as 29 and 32.
The brothers were arrested after locals in the neighborhood where they were renting a house grew suspicious and informed the police, who reportedly discovered jihadist material on their laptops, including plans to blow up a number of institutions, according to French-language Neesma TV. The report added that neighbors grew suspicious because of the brothers’ unkempt appearance.
According to another regional French-language radio station, Mosaïque FM, the two men, who also had UAE visa stamps in their passports, had recently converted to Islam and wanted to implement Sharia, or Islamic law, in Tunisia. One of the brothers had married a local woman who had traveled to Syria, according to Reuters.
The marriage was ‘urfi’ — a religious marriage not officially recognized by the Tunisian government — and the woman was arrested later Tuesday, TunisiaLive report said.