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Tunisian army fights armed Islamists near Algerian border

February 8, 2014 at 2:54 pm

The Tunisian army and police force have clashed with Islamic militants near the border with Algeria, a security source has revealed. There are no reports of any casualties or injuries. According to Tunis Afrique Presse news agency, a security source said, “The clashes took place with a Salafi militant group.” He did not specify its nationality.

The clash comes at a time when Tunisia is seeking to restore security and stability after the assassination of prominent opposition leader Shokri Belaid prompted the most serious wave of protests in the country since the overthrow of the previous regime two years ago. The Tunisian government announced last month that it has identified Mr. Belaid’s killer, claiming that he is an extremist Salafi who is hunted by the police.

It was not immediately clear why the latest confrontation took place. Tunisian police began a campaign to track down militants near the border with Algeria and Libya a few weeks ago in an attempt to stop the flow of arms from Libya and Algeria. Al-Qaeda operatives are known to be active in the region.

Since the revolution that toppled the former regime nearly two years ago, the influence of Islamists has increased and militant groups have grown in prominence in Tunisia. Last September, extremists attacked the US Embassy in Tunis protesting against an anti-Islam film. Four people were killed in that attack; hundreds were wounded.

A large arms cache was discovered by police last month in Tunis. The government announced in December that security forces arrested 16 militants who are linked to Al-Qaeda and were hiding weapons in readiness for efforts to establish an Islamic state.