8 Tunisians Held Over Hamas Drone Expert's Assassination; 'Studied' Underwater Drones

Mohammed Zawahri was planning on writing his PhD thesis on remote-controlled submarines; journalist, photographer and car-rental company manager among those detained.

An undated photo of Mohammed Zawahri - a Hamas-linked drone expert allegedly assassinated by Israel
Alresalah Press

Tunisian authorities announced that eight people were detained by Saturday over suspicions that they were involved in last week's assassination of Hamas drone expert Mohammed Zawahri.

A spokesman for the judiciary in the city of Sfax, Murad Aturki, said that all those detained are Tunisian nationals, and that authorities are searching for a Belgian national who also has Moroccan citizenship.

Four of those detained are the drivers of vehicles that were allegedly involved in the incident, as well as the manager of a car-rental company, a journalist, a photographer who was recently in touch with Zawahri, and an unidentified person, the Tunisian Alchourouk newspaper reported.

The Belgian citizen wanted by the authorities is the owner of a production company with which the detained journalist and photographer work with, according to reports. Authorities said the journalist was detained because she was driving a rental car registered in her name in which two pistols and silencers were found after the assassination.

Radwan Zawahri, Mohammed's brother, told the Hamas-affiliated news site a-Risala on Sunday morning that Israel's Mossad was the one with a clear interest in the assassination, and that Mohammed Zawahri had recently received death threats. Radwan Zawahri added that his brother, who was constantly on the move, was killed immediately upon his return from abroad, in the presence of his wife and mother.

Radwan Zawahri and Mohammed's wife said that they weren’t aware that he an operative for Hamas' military wing, Iz al-Din al-Qassam. Zawahri's family also criticized the Tunisian government for not expressing a clear position on the assassination.

His brother also confirmed that Zawahri signed up for doctoral studies at Sfax's school of engineering and was planning on writing his thesis on remote-controlled submarines.

According to Shems FM, a Tunis radio station, the investigation shows that anonymous hackers broke into the security-camera system that operated at the site of the incident, an act that requires professionals with the relevant know-how. Footage from security cameras hasn’t revealed new evidence or details that could shed light on events at the scene.  

Hamas' military wing Iz al-Din al-Qassam said on Saturday that Zawahri was active within the group, and was responsible for the development and production of small drones. "The enemy must know the blood of the leader Zawahri will not go in vain," Hamas said.

Hamas also said that Zawahri, a pilot, joined Palestinian resistance forces some 10 years ago, and that he "was assassinated by Zionist treacherous hands on Thursday in Sfax." According to Hamas, his assassination serves as a warning sign to Arab and Muslim countries.