Tunisia in new clash with gunmen near Libya border

2016-03-07 09:54
File photo of soldiers shooting in the air in Sidi Bouzid to mark the fifth anniversary of the Tunisian unrest. (Hassene Dri, AP)

File photo of soldiers shooting in the air in Sidi Bouzid to mark the fifth anniversary of the Tunisian unrest. (Hassene Dri, AP)

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Tunis - Tunisia security forces clashed with gunmen near the Libyan border on Monday, less than a week after killing five militants who had slipped across, state television reported.

The gunmen attempted to attack a National Guard post and an army barracks in the town of Ben Guerdane, triggering a firefight, the television said.

A security source said that at least four civilians had been wounded.

Mosaique FM radio said the violence erupted at 04:30 and residents told AFP it was still raging after daybreak.

The interior ministry said it had no immediate comment. The defence ministry could not be reached.

Troops have been on alert in the border area following reports that militants had been slipping across since a US air strike on an Islamic State group training camp in Libya on February 18 killed dozens of Tunisian militants.

At least four of the five militants killed in an hour-long firefight near Ben Guerdane last Wednesday were Tunisians who had entered from Libya in a bid to carry out attacks in their homeland, the interior ministry said.

Deadly attacks by ISIS on foreign holidaymakers last year, which dealt a devastating blow to Tunisia's tourism industry, are believed to have been planned from Libya.

Tunisia has built a 200km barrier that stretches about half the length of its border with Libya in an attempt to stop militants infiltrating.

Last month's US strike on the ISIS training camp outside the Libyan city of Sabratha targeted the suspected mastermind of two of last year's attacks, Noureddine Chouchane.

Washington has said Chouchane was likely among the dozens of militants killed, and that the strike probably averted a mass shooting or similar attack in Tunisia.

Britain announced last week that it was sending a team of around 20 soldiers to Tunisia to train troops patrolling the border with Libya.

Thirty Britons were among 38 foreign holidaymakers killed in a gun and grenade attack on a beach resort near the Tunisian city of Sousse last June.

And last March, jihadist gunmen killed 21 tourists and a policeman at the Bardo Museum in Tunis.

According to a UN working group on the use of mercenaries, more than 5,000 Tunisians, mostly aged from 18 to 35, have travelled abroad to join jihadist groups.

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