Tunis: Members of the radical Salafist group Ansar Al Sharia are among the armed Al Qaida-linked jihadists the military is tracking in Tunisia’s western region bordering Algeria, the interior ministry said on Friday.
“Some active elements of what is called Ansar Al Sharia belong to the terrorist group in Mount Chaambi,” ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Aroui told a news conference.
The Salafist group, which has been blamed for numerous acts of violence in Tunisia since the 2011 revolution, has in the past denied any link to the group being hunted in the remote border region.
Aroui said security forces had arrested five “terrorists” at the end of May, adding that another 40 had been detained between December and April.
He showed pictures of 19 Tunisian jihadists implicated in the unrest in Mount Chaambi and gave the names of seven others, all Algerian.
Authorities have been hunting the group since December, when it launched an attack on a border post that killed a member of the national guard.
The army intensified its search at the end of April, after landmines planted by the Islamists to protect their base in the border region wounded 16 members of the security forces.
Since the revolution that ousted Zine Al Abidine Bin Ali in January 2011, extremists suppressed under the former dictator have become increasingly active and have carried a wave of attacks, notably on the US embassy in September last year.