Tunisia arrested 16 members of a group linked to al-Qaeda and security forces are pursuing other suspected militants hiding near the country’s western border with Algeria, the nation’s top security official said.
The arrests announced late yesterday by Interior Minister Ali Larayedh came after security forces raided a training camp in the mountains near the city of Kasserine, about 300 kilometers (186 miles) southwest of Tunis.
Authorities are seeking those responsible for an attack in Tunisia earlier this month that left a policeman dead. Eight people were detained in Kasserine, he said. They belonged to a group headed by three Algerians linked to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
“It’s a terrorist group in the formative stage,” said Larayedh. The groups were involved in training young Tunisians, some of whom would be sent to Libya and Algeria, he said.
Authorities found explosives, military uniforms, maps, ammunition, and coded documents.
A second group of suspects was arrested in another forested region of northern Tunisian, he said.
Tunisia’s Islamist-led troika government has been struggling with a small Salafist undercurrent blamed for the September attack on the U.S. embassy and nearby international school, as well as a spate of burnings of stores selling alcohol. The Salafis, who espouse an ultraconservative interpretation of Islam, want to impose Islamic law.