Tunisian Defence Minister Abdelkareem Zubaidi said on Tuesday that two armed groups consisting of 24 Europeans coming from Libya crossed the border and were forced to hand over their weapons.
This came in media statements made by Zubaidi, on the sidelines of the opening of an information day on transparency and the establishment of governance in his ministry.
He said that “an armed group of 13 French nationals tried on Sunday to cross the land border, under diplomatic cover, with four-wheel drive vehicles through the Ras Jedir border crossing (on the border with Libya).”
Zubaidi added that “the militants of the group refused to hand over their weapons at first, but the military authorities at the crossing forced them to do so.”
He also noted that two rigid inflatable boats tried on Wednesday to cross the maritime border, carrying 11 people with European nationalities and diplomatic passports coming from Libya.
He added that “the Tunisian navy detected the operation and confiscated the weapons and ammunition they had and handed them over to the border guards of the National Guard.”
Zubaidi pointed out that “the Tunisian security and judicial authorities are ensuring the remaining procedures” without giving further details.
The French embassy in Tunisia said in a statement, of which Anadolu had a copy, that the French nationals were “members of the protection team that provides security protection to the French ambassador in Libya.”
The embassy added that “this move was organised in cooperation with the Tunisian authorities, which conducted routine operations when crossing the border between Tunisia and Libya, to seize the weapons of this team, which then continued its way.”
However, Tunisian press reports said that the French, who were stripped of their weapons at the Ras Jedir crossing, are advisers in the city of Gharyan who were assisting the forces of the retired General Khalifa Haftar, who leads the army in the east, in an attack on Tripoli.
On April 4, Haftar launched a military operation to take control of Tripoli in a move that sparked international rejection and condemnation.