Tunisia security forces kill three suspected jihadists

Tunis (AFP) - Tunisian security forces have killed three suspected jihadists from an Islamic State group affiliate in the centre of the country, the interior ministry said Sunday.

A statement said "three of the most dangerous terrorists" from the Jund al-Khilafa (Soldiers of the Caliphate) group were "eliminated" Saturday evening near the town of Sidi Ali Ben Oun, 230 kilometres (140 miles) southwest of Tunis.

Security forces seized weapons, ammunition, explosives and suicide vests, the authorities said.

The ministry identified the men as Hatem ben Aid Basdouri, 40, Mohamed ben Ibrahim Basdouri, 35, and Montassar ben Khraief Ghozlani, 31.

Aid Basdouri and Ibrahim Basdouri were involved in attacks that killed dozens of members of the security forces in 2014 and 2016, the ministry said.

It said they took part in a July 2014 attack which killed 15 soldiers on Mount Chaambi -- an area in the Kasserine region that serves as a hideout for jihadists.

The ministry also said Ghozlani took part in attacks that killed a soldier in 2016 and a civilian in 2018 in Kasserine region, and laid mines targeting security forces in Mount Chaambi.

In an earlier statement Saturday the ministry said authorities had managed to "thwart terrorist projects" planned for the upcoming Muslim holy month of Ramadan after arresting another suspected jihadist.

Tunisian security forces regularly conduct search operations in the mountainous areas near the border with Algeria to hunt down IS- and Al-Qaeda-linked militants.

In March the interior ministry said security forces had shot dead three alleged Jund al-Khilafa member accused of involvement in the grisly killings of shepherds in the restive Kasserine region.

Since its 2011 revolution, Tunisia has experienced multiple jihadist attacks that have killed dozens of members of the security forces and 59 foreign tourists.

The country has been under a state of emergency since November 2015, when an IS-claimed suicide bombing in Tunis killed 12 presidential guards.

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