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Tunisian Al Qaeda battalion claims ambush near Algerian border

The Uqba bin Nafi Battalion, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb's (AQIM) branch in Tunisia, has claimed an attack on Tunisian border guards near the town of Bouchebka on the Algerian border.

In a statement released online by one of AQIM's media wings, the jihadist group says its forces "wounded a number of soldiers with differing degrees of severity and burned a military vehicle." The statement then says that the ambush took place against the "national guards on the path leading to the Bouchebka area in the state of Kasserine." No photos were released from the assault, however.

Tunisian authorities have confirmed the attack took place, but the officials said that only one border guard was wounded in the ambush. Al Arabiya reports that 15 jihadists were involved in the ambush, with the assailants fleeing towards the Mount Chaambi area after the attack according to the Tunisian Interior Ministry.

Uqba bin Nafi has claimed several attacks in the area over the past two years. In Dec. 2014, the jihadist group claimed two attacks on Tunisian forces in the Mount Chaambi region, posting photos from the raids days later. Just two months later, it took credit for killing four soldiers in an assault in Kasserine. In August of last year, it killed a customs agent in Bouchebka. In the initial claim of responsibility released for the Aug. 24 assault, the jihadist group said that it ambushed a number of customs agents, "killing a group of them." It also said that it took three weapons, identified as Steyr AUG's in photos released from the attack.

Its most deadly ambush on the Tunisian military happened in the Mount Chaambi region in July 2014, an incident that left 15 soldiers dead and 20 others wounded.

While Tunisia has been relatively stable, it continues to face a jihadist threat not just from AQIM, but also the Islamic State. The latter group claimed last years attacks on the Bardo Museum (which Tunisian authorities blamed on the Uqba bin Nafi Battalion), an ambush on a popular beach just three months later, and then a suicide bombing in the capital Tunis in November. Earlier this month, the Islamic State also claimed an assault on the Tunisian town of Ben Gardane near the border with Libya. All four attacks left a total of 93 people dead and over one hundred wounded.

[Source: By Caleb Weiss, Threat Matrix, The Long War Journal, NJ, 31Mar16]

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