In a statement released on Thursday, February 11, 2016, the Ministry of Defense announced that an Army patrol on Jebel (Jebel) Sammama uncovered and destroyed two land mines which had been buried by militants. Further statements showed that the patrol was part of a larger regional search operation in the Governorate of Kasserine. Separate Army patrols searching for militants, on Wednesday and Thursday, scoured the neighboring mountains of Jebel Mghilla and Jebel Salloum nearly simultaneously uncovering explosives, a shallow grave and birth control pills in Jihadi camps.
On Jebel Mghilla, another Army patrol discovered Wednesday February, 10, a camp built by a militants where in addition to contraceptive pills the patrol found provisions, a damaged mobile phone, and a scope for a Steyr assault rifle.
The patrol also found medication and medical devices (syringes, stethoscopes) which a statement from the Ministry of Defense identified as items which had been stolen from a clinic near Kasserine on the night of November 22-23, 2015. That theft had followed a military operation on November 15, 2015 during which a militant was killed and others injured.
Less than a week ago on Saturday February 6, three Islamist militants, all from the same family, two brothers and their sister, were taken into custody on after leaving the area around Jebel (Mount) Mghilla.
The three were captured at the border of Sidi Bouzid and neighboring Governorate of Kairouan as they attempted to transport one of the brothers to the hospital at Hajeb El Layoun, a small town Kairouan.
The brother in question was described as having a gunshot wound which ‘is not recent’ is reportedly in critical condition due to infection.
Defense Ministry reported that a patrol near Jebel (Mount) Salloum had uncovered the buried remains of a militant on Wednesday, February 10.
Further patrols on Jebel Salloum on Thursday, February 11, uncovered a camp used by militants. Within the makeshift shelter the patrol found, in addition to foodstuffs and rudimentary medical supplies, a small explosives manufacturing workshop which included:
7 anti-personnel artisanal mines, which military engineering units with the patrol detonated on site.
Several assembled artisanal anti-personnel mines (IEDs) and additional explosives manufacturing equipment and chemicals which were kept for analysis.
Less than a week ago unidentified gunmen fired on a police officer as he drove home late Saturday, February 6, (the same night the siblings had been taken into custody) near Jebel Salloum. According to reports two masked men on a scooter fired a Kalashnikov at the officer’s vehicle, striking it several times, the officer sustained minor injuries.
Okba Ibn Nafaa and Jund al-Khilafah
In the same mountainous region that runs along the Tunisian-Algerian border lies Jebel Chaambi, in the neighboring governorate of Kasserine, where militants belonging to Okba Ibn Nafaa are known to operate.
Okba Ibn Nafaa militants who were thought to be associated with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb AQIM, although Okba Ibn Nafaa social media accounts have issued contradictory statements about the group’s allegiance(s), suggesting there may be a split within the group with some members favoring Islamic State.
On November 13, 2015, near Jebel Mghilla in the Governorate of Sidi Bouzid, sixteen year old shepherd Mabrouk Soltani was beheaded after refusing to surrender a portion of his flock to militants belonging to Jund al-Khalifah.
The Islamic State affiliated, Jund al-Khilafah, which in addition to Soltani’s killing claimed responsibility for the 2015 attacks on the Bardo National Museum and the beaches of Sousse, which killed 60 mostly foreign tourists. The group then claimed to be behind the November 24, suicide bombing in Tunis which killed twelve members of Tunisia’s Presidential Guard.
Jund al-Khilafah is believed by Tunisian officials to operate training camps outside Sabratha in Libya, where all three of the Tunisian gunmen responsible for those attacks trained.