Tunisia’s Interior Ministry reports that the country’s forces on Monday killed five suspected extremists in an air and ground operation targeting a rugged mountain hideout of militant fighters.
The Ministry in a statement added that the operation launched at dawn was still underway.
Authorities also confirmed on Tuesday in a Facebook post the five extremists, three Tunisians and two Algerians, belonged to “Katibat Okba Ibn Nafaa” affilated with Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM) terrorist group.
The operation targeted a terrorist base on Mount Chaambi, near the border with Algeria.
Tunisia has seen a surge in extremist lslam since former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ousted in the country’s 2011 uprising.
The army has been battling armed extremist groups since 2012 in the country’s central mountains.
They include fighters from Jund al-Khalifa, or “Soldiers of the Caliphate”, linked to the Islamic State group and terrorists from Okba Ibn Nafaa.
One of the bloodiest operations took place in 2014 when assailants killed 15 soldiers on Mount Chaambi, the first of a series of deadly attacks that have seen dozens of security forces killed.
In February, the Islamic State (ISIS) extremist group claimed responsibility for the killing of four soldiers in three blasts near Mount Mghila, adjacent to Mount Chaambi and said a “spy” was beheaded.
In April, a suspected terrorist blew herself up as security forces closed in on the remote Selloum area of the central Kasserine mountains, also near Algeria’s border.
The interior ministry said security forces launched Monday’s operation based on “technical and detailed” information, without giving further details.