TUNIS: The suspected mastermind of last week’s twin suicide bombings in Tunis was killed in an overnight firefight with police outside the capital, the interior ministry said Wednesday.
A policeman was also killed in the exchange in the working class suburb of Intilaka, ministry spokesman Sofiene Zaag told AFP.
“The terrorist Aymen Smiri was implicated in the twin suicide bombings on Thursday and investigations proved that he was the mastermind of the operation,” Zaag said, adding he was a “very active and very dangerous leader.”
The news broke late Wednesday afternoon after police revealed they had shot at a man wanted for terrorism during a confrontation late Tuesday in Tunisia’s capital and the suspect was killed when his explosive belt detonated, the Interior Ministry said.
Ministry spokesman Sofiène Zaâg told private Radio Mosaique that officers surrounded the man in the suburban Tunis neighborhood of Intilaki and opened fire.
He said the explosion of the belt killed the man, later identified as Smiri. Witnesses said the suspect was dressed in women’s clothes.
There were no other injuries or damage reported.
The incident followed two nearly simultaneous attacks last Thursday, including one in the center of Tunisia’s capital, that killed a police officer and injured eight. The Daesh extremist group claimed responsibility for those attacks.
Tunisia has been battling militant groups operating in remote areas near the border with Algeria since an uprising overthrew autocratic leader Zine Abidine Ben Ali in 2011. High unemployment has also stoked unrest in recent years.
Last October, a woman blew herself up in the center of Tunis, wounding 15 people including 10 police officers in an explosion that broke a long period of calm after dozens had died in militant attacks in 2015.
Security has improved since authorities imposed a state of emergency in November 2015 after those attacks — one at a museum in Tunis and another on a beach in the Mediterranean seaside town of Sousse. A third attack targeted presidential guards in the capital.