AQIM battalion targets Tunisian soldiers near Algeria

The Uqba bin Nafi Battalion, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s (AQIM) branch in Tunisia, has claimed an attack today on Tunisian soldiers in the Mount Wourgha region of Kef Governorate.

The jihadist statement said that on April 6 its forces detonated an IED on Tunisian troops patrolling the area, which lies close to the borders with Algeria. The blast left two soldiers wounded, according to Uqba’s statement. The IED assault was confirmed by local media, however, Tunisian authorities downplayed the incident by saying only one soldier was wounded with non-life threatening injuries.

This IED attack only just a week after a similar incident in the Mount Chaambi region of Kasserine Governorate. That strike followed a similar pattern in that it was also targeting Tunisian soldiers patrolling in the area. The March 26 blast left one Tunisian soldier wounded according to the jihadists, which was later confirmed in the media.

Uqba bin Nafi has claimed several assaults in the area for over two years. In Dec. 2014, the jihadist group claimed two attacks on Tunisian forces in the Mount Chaambi region, posting photos from the raids days later. Just two months later, it took credit for killing four soldiers in an operation in Kasserine. In August of 2015, it killed a customs agent in Bouchebka. In the initial claim of responsibility released for the Aug. 24 strike, the jihadist group said that it ambushed a number of customs agents, “killing a group of them.” It also said that it took three weapons, identified as Steyr AUG’s in photos released from the attack.

In August 2016, it claimed a deadly ambush in the Mount Sammama area of Kasserine Governorate. That assault left three Tunisian soldiers dead and seven others wounded. A month earlier, the jihadist group claimed targeting the military with two landmines, killing one soldier in the Mount Sammama area. That claim marked the first attack since March 2016. In that strike, Tunisian border guards were targeted in another assault in Bouchebka near the border with Algeria.

Its most deadly ambush on the Tunisian military happened in the Mount Chaambi region in July 2014, an incident that left 15 soldiers dead and 20 others wounded.

While Tunisia has been relatively stable, it faces a residual jihadist threat. This is largely from the Uqba bin Nafi battalion, which continues to target Tunisian security forces. However, Tunisia also faces a threat from the Islamic State. In 2015, the small North African country saw a spate of attacks claimed by that jihadist group.  This includes the terrorist attack on the Bardo Museum, an ambush on a popular beach just three months later, and then a suicide bombing in the capital Tunis in November. In March 2016, the Islamic State also claimed an assault on the Tunisian town of Ben Gardane near the border with Libya. All four strikes left a total of 93 people dead and over one hundred wounded.

Caleb Weiss is an intern at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a contributor to The Long War Journal.

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AQIM battalion targets Tunisian soldiers near Algeria AQIM battalion targets Tunisian soldiers near Algeria Reviewed by Defense Alert on 17:33:00 Rating: 5

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