Heavy exchanges of gunfire and several explosions occurred as security units surrounded an unknown number of suspected militants in a home in the Sayah neighborhood outside the city of Ben Guerdane on Sunday, March 20. Despite several explosions inside the house, the siege remained ongoing as of early Monday morning.
The Ministry of the Interior issued a joint statement with Ministry of Defense, while the siege was still ongoing in which it said a member of the Tunisian National Guard, three members of the Army and a civilian had been wounded.
Tunis Afrique Presse (TAP) has cited a security source who stated that the house in question belongs to “one of the terrorists [who is] classified as very dangerous.”
Subsequently, numerous media outlets have cited between eight and ten additional civilian injuries who were wounded by shrapnel as they watched the standoff. A fourth member of the security forces was also wounded according to the same unconfirmed media sources.
The incident comes a day after a similar siege on Saturday, March 19 in the El-Amria neighborhood, also in the outskirts of Ben Guerdane, resulted in the deaths of two suspected terrorists.
Saturday’s standoff ended when one of the entrenched militants detonated an explosive device inside the home, killing both militants and ending the standoff. Several civilians and a member of the Tunisian National Guard were injured.
Both incidents are believed to be tied to the attack on March 7, in which over fifty militants simultaneously attacked security personnel, a national guard office, a customs office and a military barracks. During the attack and the days immediately following it security forces killed forty nine militants and arrested nine.
The Tunisian authorities have stated that the unprecedented attack was an attempt by Tunisian militants, active in Libya, to establish an Islamic State emirate in Tunisia.
Three major terrorist attacks perpetrated in Tunisia in 2015, the March 18 attack on the Bardo National Museum, the June 28 Sousse beach attack and a suicide bombing against a bus carrying members of Tunisia’s Presidential Guard in Tunis in November; have all been tied to Libya by the Tunisian authorities.
On February 19 of this year, the United States launched an airstrike, on militant training camps outside the Libyan city of Sabratha which is believed to have killed Noureddine Chouchane suspected of involvement in the Bardo attack and over fifty other Tunisian militants.
The training camps outside Sabratha are where the Tunisian authorities believe the gunmen responsible for the Bardo and Sousse attacks received training.