Tunisian authorities killed five suspected Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb terrorists in western mountains
Affected Countries: tunisia;
Tunisian forces on Monday killed five suspected extremists in an air and ground operation targeting a rugged mountain hideout of militant Islamist fighters, the interior ministry said.
The operation launched at dawn was still underway, the ministry added in a statement.
Authorities said Tuesday in a Facebook post the five extremists, three Tunisians and two Algerians, belonged “Katibat Okba Ibn Nafaa” affilated with Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM) terrorist group.
The operation targeted a jihadist base on Mount Chaambi, near the border with Algeria.
Tunisia has seen a surge in radical Islam since veteran president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ousted in the country’s 2011 uprising.
The army has been battling armed extremist groups since 2012 in the country’s central mountains.
They include fighters from Jund al-Khalifa, or “Soldiers of the Caliphate”, linked to the Islamic State group and jihadists from Okba Ibn Nafaa.
One of the bloodiest operations took place in 2014 when assailants killed 15 soldiers on Mount Chaambi, the first of a series of deadly attacks that have seen dozens of security forces killed.
In February, the Islamic State (ISIS) extremist group claimed responsibility for the killing of four soldiers in three blasts near Mount Mghila, adjacent to Mount Chaambi and said a “spy” was beheaded.
In April, a suspected jihadist blew herself up as security forces closed in on the remote Selloum area of the central Kasserine mountains, also near Algeria’s border.
The interior ministry said security forces launched Monday’s operation based on “technical and detailed” information, without giving further details.
A number of bloody attacks against “soft targets” has been claimed by ISIS in recent years. In two separate terrorist attacks, scores of civilians, including foreign tourists, were killed in 2015 when armed extremists attacked a beach resort in the coastal city of Sousse and the national museum of the Bardo in Tunis.
The 2015 attacks served as a wake-up call for Tunisian security forces which managed to largely regain the initiative in the country’s anti-terror fight in urban environments. An electronic fence and a berm were erected on the border with Libya to prevent terrorist infiltrations.
A year later, in 2016, Tunisian security forces, with the help of the local population, thwarted an attempt by ISIS to establish a foothold in the southern city of Ben Guerdane on the Tunisian-Libyan border.
Extremist elements, reported to be relatively small in numbers, have continued to roam the mountainous region on the border with Algeria. They are combated by the army and the National Guard in coordination with Tunisia’s Algerian neighbour.
Source: The Arab Weekly