Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Tunisia arrests Libyan PM near Algeria's border

Two rather extraordinary events – both reported by the Tunisian authorities - occurred last Wednesday 21st September near Tunisia's border with Algeria. So far, information about both is limited.

That evening Tunisia's Defence Ministry reported that it had attacked an armed convoy of nine vehicles, some mounted with anti-aircraft guns, at Bir Znigra in Tunisia's southern desert region of Irg, some 470km southwest of Tunis. The location is only 20km from the Algerian border. The convoy was spotted by an air patrol at 05:00. The convoy opened fire on the plane, prompting an armed response.

Ministry spokesman Haykel Bouzouita said that ground forces, backed by h elicopter gun ships, destroyed seven of the nine vehicles, killing some of the occupants. Two other vehicles were stopped and their occupants taken into custody. Their identities are yet to be disclosed. Bouzouita made no further comments other than to say that “these people are very tenacious”.

The news prompted a response from Algeria, who said that the vehicles belonged to Al-Qa'ida militants. Tunisia, however, made no comment on whether the convoy belonged to AQIM or armed smugglers or, perhaps, Qadhafi loyalists trying to gain entry into Algeria.

The latest, if unverified, news to date (Friday morning 23rd) comes from the Oman Daily Observer, which quotes a senior Tunisian army officer, Mokhtar Ben Naceur, as saying that the army was sweeping the desert region where the attack took place “in search for the remnants of an armed convoy that infiltrated from Algeria”. He is also quoted as saying: “These people came from Algeria where they were being hunted down. They tried to find refuge in Tunisia in a remote area with huge sand dunes.” He added that Tunisian authorities were liaising with Algeria on the issue. The neighbouring countries share a 1,000km border.

For more news and expert analysis about Algeria, please see Algeria Focus and Algeria Politics & Security.

For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

© 2011 Menas Associates

No comments:

Post a Comment