Three Tunisians were arrested this morning after police discovered a large stash of weapons near the Libyan border, including dozens of missiles, machine guns and rocket propelled grenades.
This is at least the third weapons cache discovered by police in the town of Ben Guerdane in the past three days, raising concerns over security in the southeastern Tunisian border town.
Earlier this week, multiple caches of heavy weaponry were discovered hidden in a forest near to the town. Dozens of grenades, landmines, and machine guns were among the weapons discovered.
According to security analyst and former spokesman for the Ministry of National Defense Mokhtar Ben Nasr, the weapons discovered this week were likely smuggled into the country years ago, possibly during the years following the Revolution. He said that police were led to the weapons cache by information obtained from suspected militant, Amir Jund al Khilafa’s, who was killed by Tunisian security services last week during a raid on a supposed terror cell. The raid took place days after the murder of senior corporal Saad Ghozlani, who was attacked in his home by a group of armed men, one of whom is thought to have been his cousin. The Islamic State (Daesh) took credit for the attack.
While Ben Nasr acknowledged that the threat of unrest in Ben Guerdane “ is always there,” he said that the police’s successful confiscation of the weaponry was “reassuring.”
Ben Guerdane has long been a hotbed for smuggling and unrest. In March, it was the site of an armed insurgency, when militants attempted to seize the city early in the morning but were rebuffed by local police. The conflict claimed the lives of 45 militants, 13 Tunisian security forces, and seven civilians. Sporadic fighting erupted in the city in the months following the attack.
Illegal arms and drugs are known to pass through Ben Guerdane’s Ras Jedir border crossing. A 2013 World Bank report, “Estimating Informal Trade across Tunisia’s Land Borders”, assessed the annual trade across the crossing at around 419.23 million TD ($190.16 USD) annually.
Rahma is preparing a master thesis in Anglo-American studies. She is interested in politics and foreign affairs. Since the outbreak of the Tunisian revolution, she volunteered for several Tunisian associations such as ATIDE, Sawty and others. She writes articles about post-revolution Tunisia.