At dawn on March 7, militants attacked the city of Ben Guerdane (Medenine Governorate) near the Libyan border initially targeting a National Guard and Army barracks. Fighting spilled over into nearby residential areas and according to a joint statement from the Ministries of Defense and Interior 4 civilians had been killed, 21 militants have been killed and 6 have been wounded and taken into custody.
The Counter Terrorism Brigade (B.A.T.-Brigade Anti-Terroriste) has surrounded a remaining group of militants in a residential home where a standoff is underway.
Local media reports, since the last official statement have indicated that the civilian death toll has now reached seven, including a child.
Military reinforcements have already been deployed to the area and air and ground patrols have been effectuated in the region and along the border.
Roads leading into Ben Guerdane and border crossings have been closed.
The bridge onto the touristic island of Djerba, approximately thirty miles away, has been secured as a precautionary measure.
The regional hospital of Ben Guerdane has called for blood donations.
Prime Minister Habib Essid held an emergency meeting with the Minister of Defense Farhat Horchani and the Minister of the Interior Hedi Majdoub. Prime Minister Essid also briefed the speaker of the Assembly of the Representatives of the People (ARP) Mohamed Ennaceur.
Essid has also held a meeting with at the Carthage Palace with President Beji Caid Essebsi to discuss measures to address ongoing threats on the border with Libya.
This is the second attack by militants in the immediate area in the last week.
On Wednesday, March 2, several SUV’s carrying militants entered Tunisia from Libya near Ben Guerdane after passing over the security barrier along the Tunisia-Libya border.
The vehicles stopped in a town 10 km from Ben Guerdane after being intercepted by security forces. The militants took shelter in in a residential home and in the ensuing clashes an army colonel was wounded and a civilian was killed, as were five of the militants.
U.S. and German military engineers were, according to Defense Minister Horchani due to arrive to the border area today, to begin the installation of an advanced electronic surveillance system on the 250 km security barrier along the northern portion of the Tunisian-Libyan border.
Construction of the security barrier had was begun in June of 2015 in response to the Sousse beach attack.
The Sousse attack, which killed thirty-eight foreign tourists, came only three months after the attack on the Bardo National Museum in March, both of which were carried out by Tunisians who are believed to have visited militant training camps outside the Libyan city of Sabratha.
Sabratha was the target of a U.S. airstrike on February 19, that killed 50 mostly Tunisian militants. The intended target of the airstrike was Noureddine Chouchane who Tunisian officials suspect of having been involved in the Bardo attack.