36 militants, 11 soldiers and seven civilians, including a girl of 12, killed in crossfire. Government impose curfew in the area. President Essebsi condemns "unprecedented attack”. Militiamen want to found " Daesh emirate" in the region. Reinforced border controls with Libya.
Tunis (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Tunisian security forces have repelled an assault launched by jihadist groups, probably linked to the Islamic State (IS). Yesterday’s attack took place in an area located near the border with Libya. In the crossfire 36 attackers, 11 security personnel and seven civilians were killed. According to the Tunis authorities the aim of the militia is to establish an Islamic emirate in the area.
The government has imposed a curfew in the town of Ben Guerdane and areas near the border crossing with Libya at Ras Jedir. There is also a high alert for those travelling on the main road that links the southern city of Zarzis in Tunisia and the rest of the country.
President Mohamed Beji Caid Essebsi has condemned what he termed as an unprecedented jihadi attack and act of "barbarism that originated from neighboring Libya." He also ordered the closure of the border with the neighboring nation.
Prime Minister Habib Essid said that the operation was aimed at creating an "Daesh emirate" [Arabic acronym for the Islamic State, SI) in Ben Guerdane and control of the Libyan-Tunisian border. However, he added, the army and internal security forces were able to repel the assault.
A 12 year old girl was also killed in the crossfire which continued till late in the evening. Local sources said that the assailants are native to the region and not foreign fighters.
Last week, security forces killed five militants in the same area yesterday’s attack. The jihadists had entered the country with the aim of committing "terrorist attacks." For over a year the local army has been engaged in a tough battle with Islamic extremist groups in the mountainous area of Chaambi and along the border with Algeria to the southeast.
The growing instability of neighboring Libya has helped to increase the threat level, this is why the Tunisian government has ordered the construction of a trench along the border to block the passage of fighters and jihadists.
The Arab Spring was born in Tunisia in 2010-2011, but spread with speed to a large number of North African countries and the Middle East. In many of these nations, the battle for democracy and fundamental rights suffered heavy setbacks and, in some cases, the situation has worsened. Despite this, Tunisia has instead implemented a democratic transition based on a vibrant civil society, which calls for respect for basic human rights.
In addition, it is the only country with a Muslim majority that defends freedom of conscience and, for this reason, in recent months has been the subject of terrorist attacks such as that on the Bardo Museum and the beach in Sousse.
The struggle for rights and democracy in Tunisia has also received prestigious international recognition. Last year, the Norwegian Nobel Committee decided to award the 2015 Peace Prize to the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, for their decisive contribution to the construction of a pluralist democracy in Tunisia after the Jasmine Rebellion of 2011.