Tunis, Tunisia—There’s nothing very remarkable about Sejenene, the small dilapidated fishing town that lies within striking distance of the Ottoman port of Bizerte on Tunisia’s northern coast. Lining the streets are cafés, where men sit and drink coffee, puffing on the ubiquitous shisha pipes. It could be anywhere in Tunisia. Walid Sabahi grew up here. It was in Sejenene he met and married his wife, found a job as a bus driver just like his father, and would spend his evenings practicing tai kwon do, or drinking coffee and chatting with his close circle of friends. Like the town itself, there was nothing remarkable about Walid Sabahi. He wasn’t religious. He wasn’t interested in politics. The tumultuous events of the revolution three years ago had largely passed him by.

In February, however, Walid did something truly remarkable. He blew himself up in a suicide attack 2,500 miles away from Sejenene,...

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