Tunis - Tunisia's army on Friday pressed its hunt for a
jihadist group hiding out in a border region with Algeria, an operation in
which 15 security force members have been wounded, the interior ministry said.
"The search operations by the defence forces and the
national guard are continuing on Mount Chaambi," ministry spokesperson Mohamed
Ali Aroui told AFP.
He refused to give further details on the search or comment
on ongoing operations in the Kef region further north, also close to the
Algerian border, where another jihadist cell is being targeted by the security
The army said on Thursday that the situation was "under
On the ground, troops have formed a security barrier around
Mount Chaambi and set up checkpoints at the entrance to the provincial capital
Kasserine, with reinforcements arriving on Thursday, an AFP journalist
Tunisian forces have been hunting in the mountainous western
region for the armed group since it attacked a border post in December killing
a member of the national guard, or auxiliary police.
The search has intensified this week, with around 15
soldiers and national guards wounded since Monday, some seriously, by homemade
landmines laid by the gunmen, in the operation to flush them out.
The army says there have been no direct clashes, but that
its men are using mortar fire and light weapons to demine the area, with
members of the security forces saying they have recovered weapons and manuals
on making explosives.
The standoff in Mount Chaambi appears to be the worst of its
kind since clashes in 2007 between the army and Islamists in Soliman, near
Tunis, in which a soldier, two policeman and 11 Islamists died.
Since the revolution that toppled Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in
January 2011, radical Islamists suppressed by the former dictator have become
increasingly assertive in Tunisia and have been blamed for a wave of deadly