TUNIS (AFP) – Tunisian women have travelled to Syria to wage "sex jihad" by comforting Islamist fighters battling the regime there, Interior Minister Lotfi ben Jeddou has told MPs.
"They have sexual relations with 20, 30, 100" militants, the minister told members of the National Constituent Assembly on Thursday.
"After the sexual liaisons they have there in the name of 'jihad al-nikah' -- (sexual holy war, in Arabic) -- they come home pregnant," Ben Jeddou told the MPs.
He did not elaborate on how many Tunisian women had returned to the country pregnant with the children of jihadist fighters.
Jihad al-nikah, permitting extramarital sexual relations with multiple partners, is considered by some hardline Sunni Muslim Salafists as a legitimate form of holy war.
The minister also did not say how many Tunisian women were thought to have gone to Syria for such a purpose, although media reports have said hundreds have done so.
Hundreds of Tunisian men have also gone to join the ranks of the jihadists fighting to bring down the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
However, Ben Jeddou also said that since he assumed office in March, "six thousand of our young people have been prevented from going there" to Syria.
He has said in the past that border controls have been boosted to intercept young Tunisians seeking to travel to Syria.
Media reports say thousands of Tunisians have, over the past 15 years, joined jihadists across the world in Afghanistan Iraq and Syria, mainly travelling via Turkey or Libya.
Abu Iyadh, who leads the country's main Salafist movement Ansar al-Sharia, is the suspected organiser of a deadly attack last year on the US embassy in Tunis and an Afghanistan veteran.
He was joint leader of a group responsible for the September 9, 2001 assassination in Afghanistan of anti-Taliban Northern Alliance leader Ahmad Shah Massoud by suicide bombers.
That attack came just two days before the deadly Al-Qaeda attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York and Pentagon in Washington.