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Education and military career
Ben Ali was born in Hammam-Sousse on 3 September 1936. While a student at Sousse Secondary School, Ben Ali joined the National resistance to French colonial rule serving as a liaison for the regional Neo-Destour party. For these activities, he was temporarily expelled from school and imprisoned.
Upon completion of secondary school, Ben Ali earned degrees from the Special Inter-service School in Saint-Cyr, France, the Artillery School in Châlons-sur-Marne, France, the Senior Intelligence School (Maryland, USA) and the School for Anti-Aircraft Field Artillery (Texas, USA). His professional military career began in 1964 as a Tunisian staff officer. During his time in military service, he established the Military Security Department and directed its operations for 10 years. He briefly served as military attaché to Morocco and Spain before being appointed General Director of National Security in 1977.