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Tunisians were accustomed to seeing Nidhal Selmi belting around a stadium, proudly sporting his country's red and white colors as a defender on the national football squad.While Selmi's shift from sports star to jihadi martyr may be striking, the death of a young Tunisian in Syria is far from it: Tunisia is one of the main sources of foreigners in the ranks of extremists fighting in Iraq and Syria.By government estimates, more than 3,000 Tunisian nationals have joined ISIS and other Al-Qaeda-linked groups in the civil war that has pulled in young men from Europe, Asia and Africa just like the Iraq and Afghanistan wars did before.Every week now, Tunisian newspapers carry death notices of other young men killed in Syria, Iraq and even Libya, a tragic sign of how Tunisia's relatively trouble-free political transition allowed a hard-line religious undercurrent to surface.Some lived in marginalized rural communities, and most were taken in by extremist recruiters who found fertile ground in Tunisia's post-revolutionary freedom.Many families blame the first, Islamist government for lax control of extremists, who took over mosques and spread their radicalizing message during the early days after uprising that ended Ben Ali's regime.
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