MOUNT CHAAMBI, Tunisia: Tunisian troops clashed yesterday with a group of around 50 armed militants in the remote Mount Chaambi border region, a security source at the scene said.
An AFP journalist nearby reported hearing an exchange of gunfire in the area, which is close to Tunisia’s border with Algeria.
The group is commanded by an Algerian and two Tunisians originally from the regional capital Kasserine, the source said.
Tunisian forces have been conducting search operations in the mountainous region since Monday, targeting a group of “terrorists,” the authorities have said, while refusing to give further details because the operations were ongoing.
The gunmen laid homemade land mines in parts of the Mount Chaambi region, which have already wounded around 10 soldiers and members of the national guard, some seriously, during the operation to flush them out. The group originally consisted of 11 fighters for whom the Tunisian security forces have been searching since December, when they attacked the border post at Bou Chebka and killed a member of the national guard.
“They then recruited some youths from Kasserine and men who had come from Mali,” said the security source, without explaining how he got the information.
“Yesterday (Tuesday) we found grenades, military and homemade bombs, documents on how to make homemade bombs, coded documents, maps and mobile phones being used to make calls abroad,” he added.
Unlike earlier in the week, yesterday’s operations are being carried out by the army, which has the only units capable of detecting land mines. The national guard, or auxiliary police, are playing a secondary role.