Is ISIS invading Tatooine?
Reschedule your trip to see the set of Luke Skywalker's home planet. The US and UK governments have warned citizens against traveling to the western border of Tunisia as the Islamic State encroaches on the region.
Fans of the movie franchise are now being warned to stay away from the region’s tourist attractions, because of the presence of militants crossing the border into Libya to join the Islamic State.
Prior to the attack on the Bardo Museum in Tunis on March 18, three men were arrested in Tataouine for allegedly making plans to cross into Libya to join a terrorist network. Additionally, two armed caches containing rocket-propelled grenade launchers and more than 20,000 rounds of ammunition have been found in the region in the past month, according to CNN.
Tataouine, which lent its name, more or less, to Luke Skywalker’s home planet, Tatooine, is close to several sites where the movies were filmed, including the location of the slave quarters in “Star Wars: Episode I” where young Anakin Skywalker and his mother lived, according to StarWars.com.
Star Wars fans have been known to make pilgrimages to visit these sites and others scattered across Tunisia.
The vast and sparsely populated area near the Tunisia-Libya border is home to smugglers tracks now used by insurgents, such as those behind the museum attacks who have been identified as Tunisians who trained in Libya, to join the Islamic State.
Tunisia is increasingly concerned about the threat that the Islamic State poses in neighboring Libya. The nation has created at 1.8-mile no-go zone inside the border, with military personnel stationed every couple of miles. But the 380-mile border is still far from secure.
The United States Embassy has warned travelers against visiting these border areas, and the British government has restricted all but essential travel to a large region that includes Tataouine and Luke Skywalker's hometown of Nefta.
The travel restrictions will make life difficult for the people of the region whose livelihoods depend on the region's tourism industry, which extends beyond “Star Wars” fandom, attracting German and French beachgoers as well.
[Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify that no 'Star Wars' scenes were filmed in Tataouine.]