Qaeda jihadists open new battlefront in Tunisia
TUNIS - Tunisian security forces were on Thursday hunting two armed jihadist groups near the Algerian border, one in the Mount Chaambi region and the other in Kef further north, the interior ministry said.
"There are two groups, one of about 15 to 20 people in Mount Chaambi... Another group is in the Kef region near the Algerian border," ministry spokesman Mohamed Ali Aroui said.
A security said on Wednesday that troops clashed with around 50 armed jihadists in the remote Mount Chaambi border region, with the group comprising both Tunisians and Algerians.
A defence ministry source was unable to give more details about those targeted in the operation, or about the second group in the Kef region, around 100 kilometres (60 miles) to the north.
"I have no idea about their number. The Chaambi region is huge. We are in the process of trying to track them down. For the moment no one has been arrested," Colonel Mokhtar Ben Naceur said.
Since Monday, Tunisian forces have been hunting for the group holed up in the mountainous western region who the authorities have described only as "terrorists."
In the ongoing operation to flush them out, around 10 soldiers and members of the National Guard have already been wounded, some seriously, by homemade landmines laid by the gunmen in parts of the region.
Asked about possible cooperation with Algeria, the colonel said that Tunisia's neighbour was assisting but only at the level of intelligence-sharing.
"When there is concrete information, it is shared. There is no joint action on the ground," he said.