5 Gunmen Killed Near Tunisia-Libya Border

5 Gunmen Killed Near Tunisia-Libya Border5 Gunmen Killed Near Tunisia-Libya Border

Tunisian security forces killed five gunmen in new clashes on Tuesday near the border with Libya and are hunting violent militants hiding out in the area, the Interior Ministry said.

The renewed fighting came after about 50 extremists attacked the town of Ben Guerdane on Monday, triggering clashes that left 55 people dead. The exceptionally deadly incident highlighted fears about the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group’s growth in neighboring Libya, AP reported.

On Tuesday night, after a tense but relatively calm day, security forces searching the area killed five suspected terrorists in the Benniri district, the ministry said in a statement.

Prime Minister Habib Essid said on Tuesday the death toll from Monday’s clashes in the city of Ben Guerdane rose to 55, including 36 attackers, Essid said. Seven civilians and 12 members of Tunisia’s security forces also died, and 17 others were injured.

“The attack that happened yesterday showed that our military and security forces were ready,” he told a news conference. “We won a battle, but we haven’t yet won the war on terror, and that war continues.”

No group immediately claimed the attack, but websites affiliated with the terrorist group said IS militants were handed a tough blow by Tunisian security forces. One website published more than 30 pictures showing militants’ bodies as well as weapons and munitions seized.

Essid said about 50 gunmen—most of them Tunisians—took part in the attack. Only four out of the 36 attackers killed have been formally identified. Essid did not give more details about the attackers’ background but said some came from Libya.

According to local journalist Raoudha Bouttar, there was sporadic gunfire on Tuesday in the outskirts of Ben Guerdane as Tunisian forces searched for attackers still at large.

Tunisian forces have repeatedly clashed with extremists on the borders of Libya and Algeria in recent years, but Monday’s fighting was unusually bloody. Tunisia has been a model of relative stability for the region since an uprising five years ago ushered in democracy and inspired Arab Spring protests against dictatorships across the region.

Libyan Foreign Minister Ali Abu-Zakouk of the Tripoli government told AP that the attackers aimed at “gaining grounds and controlling territory.”

The minister said his government has asked the Tunisian authorities to activate the bilateral security agreement and joint security committees, “so we can control the border and build solidarity to fight this malignant cancerous organization which is planning to spread chaos across Tunisia”.