Tunisian security forces have killed seven gunmen in further clashes near the Libyan border, bringing to 43 the number of assailants killed in two days.
In their latest statement on Wednesday, the Interior and Defense ministries raised the death toll and said the hunt for jihadis continues after the exceptionally violent attacks on Monday and late Tuesday that killed a dozen members of the security forces and seven civilians around Ben Guerdane.
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Security forces supported by helicopters are trying to track down armed attackers who fled and are thought to be holed up in uninhabited houses in the region.
Information from seven arrested attackers led security forces to arms depots, authorities have said.
Prime Minister Habib Essid said on Tuesday that some 50 people took part in the attack, most of them Tunisians. However, not all bodies have yet been identified.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in a region that has kept security forces on the alert because of its proximity to lawless Libya where the Islamic State group has a growing presence.
Websites affiliated with IS said militants were handed a tough blow by Tunisian security forces. One website published more than 30 pictures showing militants’ bodies as well as weapons and munitions seized.
Tunisia has been a model of relative stability for the region since an uprising five years ago ushered in the democratic process and inspired Arab Spring protests against dictatorships across the region.
The Tunisian prime minister said on Tuesday that the attackers wanted to take control of the military barracks in Ben Guerdane, police posts and the National Guard post. He said without elaborating their goal was to set up an “emirate of Daesh,” — another name for the Islamic State group.