Star Wars set now ‘way station for jihadists’

The real-world location that served as the backdrop for the barren planet Tatooine in the Star Wars universe is reportedly at the heart of an ongoing struggle between good and evil, but this time, lightsabers, Jedi knights, and the Force are not involved.

Instead, the real town of Tatouine (Yes, that’s where George Lucas got the inspiration for the name) and surrounding areas in southern Tunisia (where portions of A New Hope, The Phantom Menace, and Attack of the Clones were shot in 1976, 1999 and 2002, respectively) has become a hotbed in the battle against ISIS, according to CNN.

We’ll let Chewbacca react on our behalf:

Tatouine is a dangerous place to be

Sixty miles to the east lies the Libyan border, and Tatouine’s proximity to it has made the town “a way-station for jihadists” crossing over to join up with the Islamic State, the website reported. In addition, prior to last week’s attack on the Bardo National Museum in Tunis, three men were arrested there as they planned to cross into Libya to join up with terrorists.

In light of those incidents, “there’s far greater scrutiny on networks linking militants operating in Libya with cells across the border,” The Washington Post said. Authorities have recently found a series of weapon caches purportedly looted from arsenals in Libya, including 20,000 rounds of ammunition and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, the newspaper added.

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The conflict going on in the region has already forced filming of the next Star Wars movie to be relocated, as director J.J. Abrams has shifted filming of scenes on Tatooine to Abu Dhabi. Fans of the iconic movie franchise are also being warned not to visit Tatouine or surrounding area of Tunisia due to ongoing jihadist activity there, the Huffington Post noted on Wednesday.

Sorry, spring breakers

Devoted followers of the franchise often make pilgrimages to Tunisia to visit locations where filming occurred, including the sites that served as home of Anakin Skywalker and his mother in Episode I, and nearby Nefta, which served as the exterior of the Lars Family Homestead where young Luke Skywalker was raised during the original Star Wars film, Episode IV.

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Yet, the terrorist activity going on there has forced several countries to issue warnings about travelling there. The US Embassy is urging travelers to avoid the border area due to what they are calling “periodic security incidents,” and the UK government is warning against “all but essential travel” to a large swath of the country – including both Tatouine and Nefta.

“The developments are further bad news for Tunisia’s vital tourism sector, which is already reeling from last week’s attack,” The Washington Post said, noting that the government filmed a YouTube video set to the Pharrell song “Happy” which featured “ actors dressed up as ‘Star Wars’ character prancing around parts of Tunisia, including the sets where the films were shot.”

Some residents of Tunisia “rely on tourism to make a living, and fear that ISIS will – as it has threatened – launch further attacks against foreigners visiting Libya,” CNN added. “Others, mainly in the capital Tunis, are apprehensive that the democratic gains of four years ago may be eroded or lost in a new security clampdown.”

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