By Jamel Arfaoui in Tunis for Magharebia
Tunisia and Algeria are working together to eliminate terrorist groups holed up along their shared border.
The Tunisian army has launched a series of attacks in the remote Jebel Chaambi area, while Algeria lined up 10,000 soldiers to monitor the borders and prevent terrorists from escaping the siege.
“The exchange of information between Tunisian and Algerian agencies about the movements of terrorists is very important to the success of the operation,” former defence ministry spokesperson Brigadier-General Mokhtar Ben Nasr said.
Friday night, three terrorists from Jebel Chaambi were killed after crossing the border into Algeria following an exchange of fire that lasted nearly an hour, El Khabar reported.
The terrorists, all Tunisian, were killed north of Bir El Ater. The army would have preferred to capture them alive to obtain more information on the terrorist group hiding in Jebel Chaambi, according the daily.
The Tunisian army also killed 10 terrorists in Jebel Chaambi and arrested three others in the region of Ouled Nasrallah, Kasserine province. A fourth terrorist was seriously wounded in the operation.
On Friday, the army launched a major assault on Jebel Chaambi, where eight soldiers were slaughtered days earlier by al-Qaeda-linked extremists.
“A group of security and intelligence officers from Tunisia and Algeria began the investigation about the activity of terrorist groups across the land border between the two countries,” El Khabar reported on Saturday (August 3rd).
“The on-going operations will be launched in phases on the ground and from the air,” the Algerian daily said. “Tunisian forces will be thrice the forces that participated in the sweeping of the area in the spring of this year, in addition to at least 4,000 Algerian military forces.”
Tunisian and Algerian intelligence services want to know whether al-Qaeda allies Movement for Tawhid and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) has moved from Mali to Tunisia, security expert Kais Ouerghi said.
“It is not unlikely,” Ouerghi added, “that this organisation has taken the Libyan city of Derna as a rear base.”
“They have the best equipment with the proliferation of weapons in Libya after the fall of the Kadhafi regime. This includes weapons of various sizes, including anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles,’ he added.
The Tunisian foreign ministry has confirmed “bilateral co-operation and continuous field security co-ordination between Tunisia and all countries in the region, especially our sister country Algeria”.
“This is due to the volume of joint security challenges before us today and the gravity of the implications for the stability of our countries,” the ministry said last Friday.
Many social network pages are adorned with both Tunisian and Algerian flags in reference to the security co-operation between the two countries in the fight against terrorism.
“The Algerian flag is dear to all Tunisians, and we will not forget this favour,” Sana Wahaibi, a student in her twenties, said.
“There is a shared history between Tunisia and Algeria. They are proud of it as much as we are,” housewife Soumia Hanashi added.