The latest official death toll after the assault on Ben Guerdane reported a total of 53 deaths following the assault by over militants which began at dawn on Monday, March 7, and initially targeted a military barracks and two National Guard offices simultaneously.
The official civilian death toll from security sources stands at seven, including a child.
In a joint statement published earlier, the Ministries of National Defense and the Interior reported that ten security and government officials had lost their lives. The statement listed six National Guardsmen, two policeman, one Army serviceman and a customs officer.
Neither of the latest statements included an updated number of those wounded among civilians or security personnel.
According to the latest official statement, a joint communique from the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Defense, the toll amongst the militants now stands at 36 killed with a further seven taken into custody.
After the initial assault, fighting spilled over into residential areas in the Ben Geurdane a standoff occurred when militants took shelter in a residential home, and at least two incidents have been reported outside the city that are directly related to the attack.
An attack occurred at a customs office in the outskirts of Ben Guerdane, where several militants took over the building and engaged in a standoff with security personnel. Local media have reported that one militant was killed and three surrendered.
There are also reports that a vehicle carrying militants fleeing the fighting was intercepted in Tatouine to the south of Ben Guerdane, where several militants were reportedly killed.
A curfew (7 p.m. 5 a.m.) announced earlier in the day has taken effect and Tunis Afrique Presse TAP is reporting that security personnel are patrolling the streets and have closed off road access into Ben Guerdane.
The border crossings with Libya at Dehiba and Ras Jedir have also been closed.
A week ago a civilian and five presumed militants were killed in clashes on Wednesday, March 2, near Ben Guerdane (Medenine Governorate) after three SUV’s containing ten militants entered Tunisia from Libya, passing over the security barrier along the Tunisia-Libya border were surrounded by National Guard and Army units. Of the five militants killed, four were shot dead by security forces while a fifth detonated an explosive device.
On February 19, a U.S. airstrike targeted Tunisian militants outside the Libyan city of Sabratha. The primary target of the airstrike was Noureddine Chouchane, a Tunisian Militant wanted Tunisian authorities for his role in the Bardo National Museum attack in March 2015, according to local Libyan sources the U.S. airstrike killed over 50 suspected militants, the vast majority of whom were Tunisian nationals.
In late February the Libyan Tripoli government released a taped confession of two Tunisian militants captured in Sabratha, prior to the U.S. airstrike. In the video the two militants one of the men identified as “Mohamed Ben Mohsen Ben Mohamed El Gharbi” (Abu Zid) claimed the militants targeted by the Sabratha airstrike had been preparing an assault on Ben Guerdane.
Tunisian security officials believe all three gunmen behind the Bardo and Sousse attacks (Yassine Labidi and Saber Khachnaoui at Bardo, Seifeddine Rezgui at Sousse) had trained in militant camps outside Sabratha.
The Islamic State affiliated, Jund al-Khilafah, claimed responsibility for the Bardo and Sousse attacks, and in November Jund al-Khilafah also claimed to be behind the suicide bombing in Tunis which killed twelve members of Tunisia’s Presidential Guard. Tunisian officials have stated that the explosives used in the Tunis bomb attack were of a ‘similar type’ to explosives seized earlier in 2015 which had been fabricated in Libya.