Nine members of Tunisian state security forces were injured in three land mine explosions near the Algerian border over the past two days.
The injuries occurred in the forests of Mount Chambi in the Kasserine governorate. Since last December, this region has witnessed armed clashes between the Tunisian army and Islamist groups.
Yesterday, two national guardsmen were badly injured by a land mine explosion while they pursued a terrorist group hiding in the Chambi forest. According to the Ministry of the Interior, one lost a leg while the other suffered serious head wounds. The national guardsmen were treated at the hospital in Kasserine before being transported to the military hospital in Tunis.
“They had already prepared land mines before we arrived, as if it were an ambush,” Mohamed Khlifi of the National Guard told state television channel Al Wataniya.
On Monday afternoon another soldier was wounded in a second land mine explosion, reported state press agency TAP. The second land mine was only 100 meters away from the first one.
National guards and members of the army protested what they said was a delay in assisting the wounded after the explosions.
”We don’t have the right equipment for victims of terrorist attacks,” Mohamed Tahri of the National Guardsmen’s Union told Al Wataniya. “The land mine exploded around 8:00 a.m., while the helicopter arrived around 11:00 (a.m.).”
Following the land mine explosions, the Chambi forest became a closed military zone.
Tuesday afternoon, a third land mine exploded, wounding six national guard and army members from units sweeping the area for terrorist elements, according to a statement released by the Ministry of the Interior.
The Tunisian government held an emergency ministerial meeting Tuesday to discuss the situation in Kasserine.
Prime Minister Ali Laraayedh announced that special measures will be taken to protect security forces while doing their duties, according to Mosaique FM. He also called on politicians to support security forces as they fight violence and terrorism in Tunisia.
Alaya Allani, a historian and researcher on Islamism in the Maghreb, told Tunisia Live that the situation in the country has reached an alarming stage with the recent land mine explosions.
“Tunisia is not a country that had a previous history of land mine explosions or jihad,” Allani said. “This will be an obstacle in building the democracy that the country needs. This also raises several questions regarding policies of the government that have clearly failed to establish a religious strategy that promotes tolerance.”
”The evolution of the Jihadist movement is threatening to the stability of the country,” he added. “Instead of welcoming Wahhabi preachers, the government should take strict measures against the influence of a model that, while it functions for other countries, does not suit the Tunisian experience.”
He called on civil society to organize a forum to fight terrorism and to create a national dialogue with the extremists.