At least eight soldiers were killed and others wounded Monday in an exchange of fire with gunmen on Chaambi Mountain at the Tunisia-Algeria border. The gunmen are believed to belong to a group of terrorists pursued by the Tunisian Army on the mountain for several months.
State TV reported the eight soldiers were ambushed and killed during a gunshot exchange with the militant groups this afternoon. Additionally, Mosaique FM reported that five of the slain soldiers were found “slaughtered.” The coroner’s examination determined the five soldiers had been mutilated after they were killed; all eight soldiers were killed at approximately six p.m..
The spokesperson of the Ministry of Defense declared that the ambush took place when a group of soldiers was preparing to replace another in the same zone of Chaambi Mountain. The mine that exploded was planted in a zone that had previously been swept and secured by the army.
According to Mosaique FM’s correspondent in Algeria, Algerian security authorities believe that a terrorist group headed by Kamel Ben Arbia, also known as Abu Fida, was behind the attack. Arbia was arrested a few days ago by Algerian authorities, who believe that Monday’s attack was carried out in response to his arrest.
To honor the soldiers, the Tunisian presidency has announced a three-day national mourning.
A press conference will be held Tuesday morning by the Ministry of Defense to reveal more details.
Last April, nine members of Tunisian security forces were injured in three land mine explosions while chasing suspects on Mount Chaambi. The government believes the land mines were planted by militant cells that have ties with Al-Qaeda, who have been taking refuge on the mountain.
During the first week of May, two more members of the armed forces were injured by a land mine explosion.
Since May, security and army forces have been searching for militant groups hiding in the mountains. In June, two members of the army were killed and two others were injured when their vehicle passed over a land mine, marking the fifth explosion in the area.
Days after that incident, the Ministry of Justice revealed that the militants hiding in Chaambi had finally left the area and that they believed the new land mines were planted by actors outside the mountain.