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.