Tunisian forces kill extremists
Published 10/07/2015 | 15:01
Tunisia's Interior Ministry says security forces leading a counter-terrorism sweep have killed five suspected extremists in central Tunisia.
The operation by the national guard and the army near the town of El Ktar in the Gafsa region comes less than a week after Tunisia's government declared a state of emergency following a gunman's attack in the beach resort of Sousse that left 38 tourists dead - mostly Britons.
Ministry spokesman Walid Louguini said a gunfight erupted as a special national guard unit tracked and chased eight suspected extremists in the mountainous Ouled Bouomrane area, near Gafsa's mining zone.
He said the operation was continuing.
The UK yesterday urged all British tourists to leave Tunisia, saying an extremist attack was "highly likely" despite enhanced security measures.
Tunisian prime minister Habib Essid, speaking in a parliamentary debate, said his government "did everything in our power to protect (British) citizens and their interests, as well as those of all other countries".
The government has carried out 7,000 security operations since an attack on the Bardo museum in Tunis in March, arresting 1,000 people and stopping 15,000 young people from travelling to fight jihad abroad, Mr Essid said, and was working to remedy "shortcomings."
"Our country is going through a delicate situation, and is in danger," he said.
Many Western European tour operators suspended trips to Tunisia following the Sousse killings.
France's Foreign Ministry today urged its citizens in Tunisia to be "particularly vigilant" but stopped short of urging departures. Germany, two of whose citizens died in the Sousse shooting, made no immediate change to its travel advice.
Ireland, Denmark, Belgium and Finland all discouraged citizens from non-essential travel to Tunisia.
Such decisions are a new wound for Tunisia's struggling tourism industry and for the nation's reputation as it tries to solidify its new democracy in a volatile region. The attack on the Bardo museum left 22 dead, mostly foreign tourists.
British Embassy officials are helping with departures of British tourists at Enfidha airport, but would not talk about the ramifications of the government's warning.
The head of the Islamist party Ennahda's group in parliament, Noureddine Bhiri, called the British decision "manifestly damaging to Tunisia and its democratic process".
A French diplomat said French, British and German governments will work with Tunisia, notably in improving airport security and protecting tourist sites and foreign companies. The diplomat said Western experts would meet next week in Tunis to discuss security measures.