Tunisian forces bust al-Qaeda-linked terrorist cell near Sousse
Tunisian security forces have dismantled a “terrorist cell” affiliated to the Takfiri al-Qaeda militant group that poised to carry out attacks in the North African country.
According to a statement by Tunisia’s Interior Ministry, the group was busted during a raid near the coastal city of Sousse, which is located 140 kilometers south of the capital, Tunis.
The cell had 10 members aged between 25 and 45, including two women.
The ministry said in a statement on Thursday that the group had used the Telegram encrypted messaging system to communicate with associates inside and outside Tunisia, adding that the militants were plotting to carry out “terrorist operations” across the country.
Sources say the cell had links to Okba Ibn Nafaa, an al Qaeda-linked group based in the Mount Chaambi range near the Algerian border. The group has claimed a series of terror attacks against Tunisian security forces in recent years.
Tunisian security forces said recently that they had dismantled 160 militant cells in the first 10 months of this year across the country.
Tunisia has witnessed an upsurge in militant attacks over the past few months.
In June 2015, an assailant armed with a rifle killed 38 people, mostly foreign tourists, on a beach in Sousse.
The attack came more than a month after two militants stormed the Bardo Museum in the capital, and shot dead 21 people, mainly foreign tourists.
On November 24, 2015, a bomb attack by Daesh Takfiri terrorists on a bus carrying presidential guards killed 12 people in Tunis.
Following the attack, Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi said his country was at “war against terrorism.”
Tunisia has experienced violence since the 2011 uprising that ousted the country’s dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who was in power for over two decades.
The country has also been affected by the growing instability in neighboring Libya, which has been in chaos since former dictator Muammar Gaddafi was toppled and later killed in 2011.
Tunisian security authorities have recently warned of the return of thousands of Takfiri militants fighting for terrorist groups in Iraq and neighboring Syria to the small Mediterranean country, demanding “exceptional measures” to combat the phenomenon.