Ten militants killed in fresh Tunisia border clashes

Ten militants killed in fresh Tunisia border clashes
3 min read
10 March, 2016
Ten militants and a Tunisian soldier have been killed in fresh clashes in Ben Guerdane near the Libyan border on Wednesday, as residents buried victims of Monday's attack.
Monday's attack was an unprecedented assault [AFP]

Fresh clashes in Tunisia's Ben Guerdane area near the Libyan border left 10 militants and a soldier dead as thousands attended funerals Wednesday for victims of a major assault.

The assault, launched Monday on army and police posts and blamed by authorities on the Islamic State group (IS), and ensuing unrest has left 46 militants, 13 members of security forces and seven civilians dead.

IS has taken advantage of Libya's chaos to gain an important foothold in the country and there are fears of its influence spreading into neighbouring Tunisia.

After fighting off Monday's fierce assault, Tunisian security forces have been hunting and clashing sporadically with militants in the area, where a nighttime curfew has been in effect since Monday.

Two "terrorists" and a soldier were killed on Wednesday when fighting erupted after militants tried to raid a building site in search of provisions, officials said. Another militant was shot dead while hiding in a house in the city.

Late on Tuesday security forces killed another seven jihadists hiding out in a house in Ben Guerdane.

The defence ministry warned that those entering a designated buffer zone along the border without permission would be dealt with "firmly".

Thousands still turned up for funerals of the victims of Monday's attacks, as the bodies of 11 people were buried in the town cemetery in an area newly designated "The Martyrs of March 7".

Authorities would respond "with force against anyone" who does not cooperate, the ministry warned.

"This is to prevent terrorist threats that could target our country through attempts at infiltration," it said.

There was a heavy security presence in Ben Guerdane and the border with Libya has remained closed since Monday.

Thousands still turned up for funerals of the victims of Monday's attacks, as the bodies of 11 people were buried in the town cemetery in an area newly designated "The Martyrs of March 7".

Mourning took place nationwide, and schools across the country held a minute's silence in memory of the civilians and members of the security forces killed in the assault.

Tunisian authorities said Monday's attack was an "unprecedented" assault by IS aimed at setting up a new stronghold in the country across the border from Libya.

Prime Minister Habib Essid has said about 50 extremists were believed to have taken part in the attacks.

The apparent aim of the operation was to establish a "Daesh emirate" in Ben Guerdane, he said, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

Analysts said the coordinated attacks showed jihadists are keen to spread their influence from Libya to Tunisia and to set up a new stronghold in the country.

Residents of the town said the assailants appeared to be natives of the region.

They stopped people, checked ID cards apparently to seek out members of the security forces, and announced their brief takeover of Ben Guerdane as "liberators".

Tunisia has built a 200-kilometre (125-mile) barrier that stretches about half the length of its border in an attempt to stop militant incursions.

Agencies contributed to this report