Death toll from southern Tunisia clashes rises to 55, says premier

The final estimate of the death toll from clashes between Tunisian security forces and insurgents in the southern city of Begardene a day ago is 55, Tunisian Premier Habib Essid said in a press conference Tuesday.

A total of 36 insurgents and 12 members of the security forces were killed during the clashes in the city, which is located near the border with Libya. Seven civilians were also killed during the attack, while three civilians and 14 security personnel suffered injuries.

On Tuesday, another five "terrorists" were killed in a separate security raid in Begardene, the Tunisian interior ministry said.

The Monday clashes broke out when unidentified gunmen attempted to storm military and security barracks and a police station Monday at dawn in Begardene. Clashes eventually turned into street battles and lasted for hours before the Interior Ministry announced it had full control of the city.

“About 50 terrorists were inside a mosque when they took off to launch the attack,” Essid told reporters, adding that seven suspects were arrested, which allowed the authorities to “reach important findings” through interrogation.

Essid said that the authorities seized a truck carrying advanced weapons and discovered three arms warehouses during the operation, adding that the attackers included Tunisian nationals. 

“The Begardene operation boosted the morale of the army and security forces, proving that Tunisia has no place for establishing a ‘state’,” Essid said, a reference to the Islamic State terrorist group. “We won a battle; but the war against terrorism persists.”

A few hours following the clashes, the Tunisian Interior Ministry imposed an overnight curfew in Begardene until 5 am (0400 GMT).

The Tunisian authorities further shut down the border with Libya to prevent any infiltration of terrorists.

Meanwhile, Interior Ministry media spokesman Yasser Mosbah said Tuesday that the security operation in Begardene persists as security forces have been combing the city and securing its entrances, state-run Agence Tunis Afrique Presse reported.

Mosbah added that the sound of immense explosions could be heard in the city after security forces destroyed three hand grenades, seized among other weapons the suspects were possessing, the report added.  

Tunisia has experienced a series of deadly attacks during the past year.

Last month, Tunisia completed a sand barrier and trench running half the length of its border with Libya.

Libya has been destabilized since the 2011 overthrow of long-ruling dictator Moamer Gaddafi.

Last update: Wed, 09/03/2016 - 07:50

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