Jebel Chaambi operations continue

Tunisian Interim Prime Minister Ali Larayedh acknowledged on Monday (July 22nd) that the terror threat in Jebel Chaambi was not yet over.

“Army and security units are still pursuing through various methods terrorist groups entrenched in Jebel Chaambi in order to monitor their movements,” the prime minister revealed during an interview with four local radio stations.

Larayedh said that no arrests had been made in Jebel Chaambi, though people with suspected ties to the al-Qaeda linked group and others carrying weapons were arrested in various parts of the country.

The prime minister also refused to elaborate on the warnings made by Algeria about the possibility that the Signed in Blood Brigade led by Algerian Mokhtar Belmokhtar might conduct operations in Tunisia. However he stressed, “Security co-operation between the two countries is continuing, especially in the area of intelligence sharing.”

Tunisia has been suffering terrorist threats in Jebel Chaambi since April, an area adjacent to the Algerian border. Despite great efforts still being carried out by the gendarmerie and the army, the threat remains.

In May, the interior ministry revealed that the militants were associated with al-Qaeda’s Okba Ibn Nafaa brigade.

A poll conducted by EMROD Consulting and released on July 2nd revealed that more than 45 per cent of Tunisians believe that the threat of terrorism still exists in the country.

Former Tunisian Army chief General Rachid Ammar complained about the absence of sufficient information to lay hands on the terrorist group. He resigned last month citing age, but some speculated the unexpected departure was due to events in Jebel Chaambi.

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Rachid Sabbagh called on July 2nd for the launching of a national security structure in Tunisia in order to meet challenges and changes taking place in the country.

Sabbagh, who was overseeing the handover ceremony of diplomas to graduates of the Institute of National Defence, has promised to develop a legal framework for intelligence as well as for defence and security. He noted the need to connect security with development, and to provide a security plan involving neighbouring countries in border security.

“The launch of a National Security Council is a vital necessity for a country going through major changes, especially in light of the regional conditions that could threaten Tunisian national security,” according to Tarek Ghiloufi, a strategic expert.

Security specialist Mounir Belgaied told Magharebia that “the decision to disband internal security forces after the revolution under the pretext that they were political police was a grave mistake and left a security and intelligence vacuum.”

“This was exploited by a large number of extremists to threaten and terrorise Tunisians. The best proof is the failure of our troops to lay hands on the Chaambi terrorist group,” Belgaied said.

On July 2nd during his supervision of the regular meeting of the security council, Larayedh said that continued vigilance was needed, stressing the role citizens play in the process.

“The security council stressed in its meeting a better distribution of security units, and their full readiness and presence across the territory, particularly at the level of the borders,” TAP quoted Larayedh as saying.


Troubles in the Jebel Chaambi, two more Tunisian Soldiers killed

Jebel Chaambi terrorists claim more lives

By Yasmine Najjar and Monia Ghanmi in Tunis for Magharebia – 07/06/2013

Two Tunisian army officers were killed Thursday (June 6th) in the Jebel Chaambi region, the defence ministry confirmed, calling it “a serious development”.

The home-made bomb exploded during the ongoing military campaign to hunt down terrorists holed up in the mountain forests near Algeria.

This latest incident in Dhogra “targeted all those who use the track, whether citizens, military or security personnel”, the defence ministry said, urging “all citizens to be cautious and deal positively with the military and security forces to protect the country and people against this imminent danger”.

Some 45 suspects have been arrested in connection with the terrorism in Jebel Chaambi. Saber Mechri, owner of the storehouse where a large quantity of weapons was found in Mnihla, was among the detainees.

Members of radical salafist group Ansar al-Sharia are among the militants fighting Tunisian forces in the mountains, the interior ministry said.

“Those involved in Jebel Chaambi events include Kamel Gadhgadhi, presumed killer of prominent opposition leader Chokri Belaid, and Abou Iyadh, leader of Tunisia’s jihadist salafists who is wanted for planning the attack on the US embassy,” the interior ministry said.

On Thursday morning, specialised security units raided the Hammam-Lif home of Abou Iyadh (real name Seif Allah Ibn Hussein) but the fugitive was not there.

Also on Thursday, Defence Minister Rachid Sabbagh confirmed that “terrorist elements holed up in Jebel Chaambi in Kasserine province are about to move”, adding that “they receive assistance from other entities”.

Army forces would soon receive “new equipment and devices to monitor landmines and track these terrorist elements”, he added.

For his part, Prime Minister Ali Larayedh said that Tunisia’s “position from terrorism and criminality hasn’t changed, but has even grown firmer”.

“We’ll continue with our efforts until we dismantle this terrorist group and all those who have a proven link to these events. We’ll also develop our counter-terrorism methods and plans,” Larayedh said.

A key part of the strategy to combat the extremists includes revamping the country’s counter-terror laws.

In that vein, a rights committee has been working for months on refining the counter-terrorism law by incorporating respect of human rights and international treaties signed by Tunisia, which provide guarantees for a fair trial.

At a seminar on the topic last week, Human Rights Minister Samir Dilou said that his ministry would speed up the bill drafting and refer it to the government and Constituent Assembly for revision and approval.

The current statute dates back to 2003. But the law has faced criticism for alleged over-reach during the regime of ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

In a statement released May 23rd, the interior ministry said seven extremists were charged under the law for allegedly killing an officer on May 2nd in Jebel Jelloud, south of Tunis.

But activist groups, including Human Rights Watch, have said that the law carries loose definitions of terrorism and undermines defendants’ rights.


Tunisia mired in state of emergency

Tunisia’s state of emergency must be extended: Sabbagh


TUNIS (AFP) – The fragile security situation in Tunisia, where radical Islamists are blamed for a wave of violence in recent months, makes it necessary to extend the state of emergency, Defence Minister Rachid Sabbagh said on Friday.