DISCLAIMER: Unofficial reports in the media and numerous eyewitnesses, which were for “information” used in this Tunisia-tn article, said that two suspected militants had been killed in the earlier incident. There has been no official mention of any dead or wounded in the incident. A later official account from Defense Ministry spokesman Belhassen Oueslati said that sixteen suspected militants were arrested after gunshots were heard near the military barracks.
Security forces in Ben Guerdane exchanged gunfire with several militants, who were discovered around midday in a residential home near the military barracks in Ben Guerdane, two of the militants were killed and another surrendered. This afternoon’s standoff raises the last official tally of militants killed to 38, a further 8 have been captured.
The above portion is therefore deemed to be either incorrect or unconfirmed hearsay as of ( March 9, 2016 at 12:39 am) The rest of the article remains factually accurate and derived from official sources or statements.
The barracks had been one the initial targets of an unprecedented attack by approximately fifty militants which began at dawn on Monday March 7, simultaneously targeting security installations and personnel in Ben Guerdane near the Libyan border.
Heavy fighting continued throughout the day on Monday and left nearly sixty dead, including twelve security personnel and seven civilians.
The seven militants captured yesterday, according to Tunisian authorities, divulged the location weapons caches inside Ben Guerdane. Three such caches were discovered in homes yesterday as well as a truck loaded with weaponry. A fourth cache was discovered today.
Yasser Mosbah, the Ministry of the Interior spokesman, had refuted earlier reports of resumed clashes when the detonation, by security forces of some of the various explosives seized from militants and the weapons caches found in the city had caused confusion.
Prime Minister Essid at a press conference earlier today expressed the view, shared by President Beji Caid Essebsi who made similar statements yesterday, that the attack on Ben Guerdane which began, constituted an attempt by militants to establish “an emirate of Daech” (Islamic State) in Tunisia.
Essid said authorities believe that the signal to launch the attack had come from a mosque near the military barracks. A claim which had been reported by local eyewitnesses, before being refuted by the Ministry of Religious Affairs, and then reaffirmed by Essid. Eyewitness reports indicated that the call to prayer was ‘unusual’ and not performed by the normal muezzin.
Prime Minister Essid noted that one of the policemen “was murdered in his home”, adding further credence to the numerous reports from local eyewitnesses that the militants were ‘very familiar’ with the city moving with ease and even targeting security personnel who were off-duty and in plain clothes.
An official statement from the Office of the Prime Minister later stated that the militants appeared to be mostly Tunisian nationals.
Essid also said investigations were still underway as to whether the militants had come across the Libyan border. If so, it would be the second attack in less than a week to have been carried out by Tunisian militants based in Libya.
A civilian and five militants were killed in clashes on Wednesday, March 2, near Ben Guerdane after three SUV’s entered Tunisia from Libya, passing over the security barrier along the Tunisia-Libya border. The vehicles were intercepted by a security patrol and were surrounded by National Guard and Army units after the militants took refuge in a residential area outside Ben Guerdane.
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 of 2015 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.