The Tunisian town which gave the name to Luke Skywalker's iconic Star Wars homeworld has reportedly become a waypoint for militants making their way to join ISIS.
Media reports state that Tataouine, a town located 60 miles to the west of the Libyan border, could be being used by militants as a staging and marshalling area for movement between ISIS training camps in Libya.
CNN reports that two major arms caches were found in the town earlier this month. Included within the munition supplies were 20,000 rounds of ammunition and rocket propelled grenade launchers. However, it should be noted that these weapons have not been formally linked with ISIS.
Several other publications, namely DailyDot, have reported that ISIS has 'seized' the town, but this does not appear to be the case. ISIS has no 'hard territory' in Tunisia, which was, until recently, seen as one of the safest states to emerge from the Arab Spring. This reputation has been tarnished by a recent militant attack on the Bardo Museum which left 23 people dead. ISIS later claimed responsibility for the incident, while it was revealed the two main perpetrators of the attack had been trained in the Libyan ISIS base of Derna.
The original Star Wars trilogy, as well as scenes in 1999's Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, filmed extensively in Tunisia. Originally, Lucas planned to name Luke's homeworld 'Utapau,' but later decided to change its name to one that better reflected the location. No actual filming was conducted in Tataouine, although nearby locations such as Sidi Bouhlel and Hôtel Sidi Driss doubled for the sandy expanses of Luke and Darth Vader's home planet. Following unrest in the region, J.J. Abrams elected to film external Tatooine scenes for Star Wars: The Force Awakens in Abu Dhabi. You can watch one of Star Wars: A Phantom Menace's Tunisian scenes below:
Despite the recent rise of ISIS in countries such as Syria and Iraq, Tunisia - which is considered to the birthplace of the Arab Spring - was still thought to be a safe destination for tourists, partly due to the country's competent security forces and moderate government. The Star Wars filming locations, in particular, have been a popular tourist attraction for die hard Star Wars fans, although now US, UK and Tunisian authorities are advising against travel to the border regions which contain these locations.
In the wake of last week's attack, the Tunisian government has greatly stepped up security in its major cities, while it has established a buffer zone around the border areas to restrict travel between Libya and Algeria.