Tataouine, the town in southern Tunisia whose name inspired Luke Skywalker‘s home planet of Tatooine in the Star Wars franchise, has become a key stopping-off point for the Islamic State terror group.
The town is strategically located in the desert region adjacent to the Libyan border, and along the routes that jihadis use to enter the country. It is just 60 miles away from the border.
CNN reports that authorities have found two large arms caches in the area this month. One of them included at least 20,000 rounds of ammunition, as well as rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
Libya’s ongoing civil war has led militants from surrounding parts of North Africa to fight in insurgent groups there. Islamic State has accepted the allegiance of those acting in its name in Libya, where a constellation of other militias has sprung up as well.
Last week, Islamic State extremists claimed responsibility for an attack in a museum in the capital city Tunis, killing 21 people, including foreign tourists. 2 of the attackers also died in the aftermath. (RELATED: Militants Kill 17 Tourists In Tunis Museum)
In response to the chaos to its east, Tunisia has established a miles-deep buffer zone along its 380-mile border with Libya. While this has arguably slowed the flow of fighters into Libya, it has also trapped the sizable population of migrant workers in the war-torn country.
Tourism is a major sector of the Tunisian economy, though it has suffered from the country’s occasional political uncertainty since 2011. Though not central to the Tunisian tourist trade, locations from the Star Wars films remain a curiosity for some visitors to the country.
While George Lucas was inspired by Tataouine to name his fictional desert planet “Tatooine,” scenes taking place on the planet were actually filmed in the nearby towns of Matmata, Djerba and Tozeur. The distinctive half-dome buildings in the films reflect traditional Berber houses in that part of Tunisia.