Tunis, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Tunisian Interior Ministry announced that four men, including two gendarmes, were killed in a clash with an armed group in the Jendouba area of western Tunisia on Sunday.
The Ministry said in a statement that a National Guard patrol arrived in the area following reports that a group of armed men had blocked off a road.
The statement added: “On arrival, the armed group opened fire, killing two gendarmes and injuring two others.” Reinforcements were sent to the scene and discovered that the group had hijacked a car after killing its two occupants, a prison guard and a civilian.
The ministry said security operations were being carried out to identify the whereabouts of the armed group, but did not give details.
Tunisian Interior Ministry Spokesman Mohamed Ali Aroui told Asharq Al-Awsat that of the five suspects sought by the authorities for the attack, three were Tunisian and two were believed to be Algerian.
He added: “They were dressed as security men to carry out their terrorist plan.”
An eyewitness, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on condition of anonymity, said the men removed the license plates from the car in which they had travelled to the scene. Following the operation, they hijacked a private car and made their escape. The witness added that two of the men spoke with an Algerian accent.
The incident took place in an area between two residential neighborhoods close to a mountainside and a forest, which overlooks a firing range used to train National Guards. The area has been the scene of a number of search operations by security forces due to the suspected presence of terrorists in the area.
This latest attack in Tunisia follows the arrest of Somali national Hmed El-Malki in Bordj El-Wazir, who is suspected of involvement in the murder of MP Mohamed Brahmi, and the killing of seven other suspected terrorists in the Tunis suburb of Raoued, including Kamel Gadhgadhi, who is accused of the murder of secular opposition leader Chokri Belaid.
Analysts say the recent successes of the Tunisia security forces may prompt extremist groups to launch reprisal attacks. Alia El-Alani, an expert in Islamist groups, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Tunisia has entered an era in which both the security forces and terrorist groups react to each other’s actions.”
He said he expected this confrontation to last a long time and take different forms as each side adapted to the tactics of the other. He added that the success of the security forces and the army in tightening the noose around extremist groups may result in unpredictable terrorist acts as they seek to keep the security forces off-balance.