Tunisian army launches massive anti-Islamist operation
The Tunisian army launched a “huge” land and air operation against Islamist militants hiding in remote mountains near the Algerian border, the armed forces spokesman announced on Friday, AFP reported.
“A huge operation, with ground and air units, was launched at dawn,” he told Mosaique FM radio.
The spokesman said the assault was mounted after clashes on Thursday night between soldiers and “a terrorist group”, referring to fugitive Islamist militants.
The move comes after a week of violence in the country. Eight Tunisian soldiers were found dead on Monday in Mount Chaambi, an area near the border with Algeria, after an ambush by Islamic militants.
Reuters reported on Thursday that Tunisian troops exchanged fire with militants near the Algerian border and had managed to surround the militants.
On the same day, Algeria’s military announced that it had reinforced its forces along its border with Tunisia.
Interior Minister Daho Ould Kablia said in Algiers this action was taken because of “the troubles that Tunisia is going through.”
After the fall of Zine el-Abidine in 2011, radical jihadist groups which were suppressed under the former dictator have gained strength.
Analysts have seen these armed groups as one of the greatest threats to Tunisia’s transition to democracy.
(With AFP and Reuters)