Bomb scares in Tunisia as forces attack militants

Reuters and AFP, TUNIS and KASSERINE, Tunisia

Sun, Aug 04, 2013 - Page 6

Tunisian security forces dismantled a bomb found near the home of a military colonel in Tunis on Friday, witnesses said, the third bomb scare to be reported in the same day.

Earlier, a man in a neighborhood 10km north of the capital was killed when he accidentally blew himself up preparing a bomb. Another man in a nearby suburb blew off his own hand as he prepared an explosive device. He was arrested and taken to hospital.

Tunisian forces also on Friday launched a heavy ground and air strike campaign on militants at Mount Chaambi near the Algerian border, a remote area where the army has been hunting Islamist militants since December.

“A huge operation, with ground and air units, was launched at dawn to clean up the [Chaambi] mountain” area, armed forces spokesman Taoufik Rahmouni told Tunisian media.

The army has been tracking Islamists suspected of ties with al-Qaeda in Mount Chaambi since December.

Rahmouni said the military launched the assault after clashes on Thursday night between soldiers and “a terrorist group,” referring to fugitive Islamist militants.

“The operations will continue until they are eradicated,” he said, without specifying how many militants the army was hunting.

A military source on the ground said the militants were “surrounded” in the area where eight Tunisian soldiers were slain this week.

He said helicopters had carried out air strikes.

“Either they give themselves up or they will be killed,” he said.

The attack took place around 16km from the town of Kasserine, near Mount Chaambi, where the soldiers were found on Monday with their throats cut after an ambush by militants.

Mosaique FM radio said the raids were aimed at destroying militant hideouts.