TUNIS: Tunisia’s army and security forces killed five “terrorists” in an operation near the Libyan border late Tuesday, the interior ministry said, a day after a deadly raid the government has described as an unprecedented assault by the Islamic State group.
“As part of the continuing operation at Ben Guerdane, security forces and the army were able to eliminate five terrorists tonight in the Benniri area,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that weapons had been seized.
Local media had reported that security forces had surrounded a house where several men were holed up, information that was not confirmed in the brief ministry statement.
The swoop came a day after coordinated dawn attacks in the border town of Ben Guerdane which analysts say were a move by jihadists to spread their influence from Libya to Tunisia and set up a new stronghold in the country.
Prime Minister Habib Essid said 36 attackers were killed and seven captured in a fierce firefight Monday that also saw the deaths of seven civilians and 12 security force personnel.
Defense ministry spokesman Belhassen Oueslati said 17 other suspects were arrested on Tuesday near a military barracks and handed over to the National Guard for questioning.
Tunisian authorities had said search operations were continuing in the region on Tuesday.
A curfew from 7:00 pm until 5:00 am (1800 GMT – 0400 GMT) has been in force in Ben Guerdane since Monday.