Tunisian forces in deadly clashes with jihadists near Libyan border
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Tunisian security forces have killed seven more gunmen in clashes near the Libyan border, bringing to at least 43 the number of jihadists killed in security operations following deadly attacks earlier this week around Ben Guerdane.
In their latest statement on Wednesday, the interior and defence ministries raised the death toll and said the hunt for jihadis continues after the exceptionally violent attacks on Monday that killed a dozen members of the security forces and seven civilians around the coastal town of Ben Guerdane, as well as at least 36 attackers.
Tunisian authorities said the attack was an unprecedented assault by the Islamic State (IS) group aimed at setting up a new stronghold in the country, which shares a border with Libya where the jihadist group already has a presence.
Security forces supported by helicopters are trying to track down the armed attackers, who fled and are thought to be holed up in uninhabited houses in the region.
Information from seven arrested attackers led security forces to arms depots, authorities have said.
Prime Minister Habib Essid said on Tuesday that some 50 people took part in the attack, most of them Tunisian nationals. However, not all of the bodies have yet been identified.it
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in a region that has kept security forces on the alert because of its proximity to lawless Libya where the IS group has been increasing its presence.
Websites affiliated with the IS group said militants were handed a tough blow by the Tunisian security forces. One website published more than 30 pictures showing militants' bodies as well as seized weapons and munitions.
Tunisia has been a model of relative stability for the region since an uprising five years ago ushered in the democratic process and inspired Arab Spring protests against dictatorships across the region.
Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid said on Tuesday that the attackers wanted to take control of the military barracks in Ben Guerdane, police posts and the National Guard post. Essid said their goal was to set up an "emirate of Daesh", another name for the Islamic State group.
(FRANCE 24 with AP)
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