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45 dead in terrorist violence in Tunisia

28 of those killed were terrorists, security forces said.

AT LEAST 28 jihadists, 10 members of the security forces and seven civilians were killed today in fighting in Tunisia near the Libyan border, the government said.

Tunisian forces killed 28 jihadists who attacked police and army posts near the Libyan border on Monday in a new spillover of violence.

Authorities ordered a nighttime curfew as troops deployed across the border town of Ben Guerdane to hunt for others involved in the coordinated pre-dawn attack.

It was the second deadly clash in the border area in less than a week as Tunisia battles to prevent the large number of its nationals who have joined the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group in Libya from returning to carry out attacks at home.

The jihadists have taken advantage of a power vacuum since the NATO-backed overthrow of longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011 to set up bases in several areas of Libya, including the Sabratha area between Tripoli and the Tunisian border.

The government said that an army barracks and police and National Guard posts in Ben Guerdane came under simultaneous attack.

A soldier was also killed in the fighting and six wounded militants were captured, the defence ministry said.

Hospital official Abdelkrim Chafroud said a 12-year-old was among the dead civilians, and two security agents were also killed.

An AFP correspondent reported that schools and offices in Ben Guerdane were closed and troops had taken up position on rooftops across the town.

Residents were being urged to stay indoors even before the 7 pm (1800 GMT) start of the nighttime curfew.

Authorities closed the border crossings with Libya. They also closed the main road north to the rest of Tunisia, the correspondent said.

Prime Minister Habib Essid ordered the defence and interior ministers to head to Ben Guerdane to oversee operations against the jihadists.

Firefight

Last Wednesday, troops killed five militants in a firefight outside the town in which a civilian was also killed and a commander wounded.

Troops have been on alert in the border area following reports that militants had been slipping across since a US air strike on an IS training camp in Libya on 18 February killed dozens of Tunisian militants.

At least four of the five militants killed in last week’s firefight were Tunisians who had entered from Libya in a bid to carry out attacks in their homeland, the interior ministry said.

Deadly attacks by IS on foreign holidaymakers last year, which dealt a devastating blow to Tunisia’s tourism industry, are believed to have been planned from Libya.

Tunisia has built a 200-kilometre (125-mile) barrier that stretches about half the length of its border with Libya in an attempt to stop militants infiltrating.

– © AFP 2016

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