The logo of the Uqba bin Nafi battalion, which clearly shows its affiliation with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
The Uqba bin Nafi battalion, an al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) group that operates in Tunisia, has claimed credit for killing two Tunisian soldiers and wounding four others in the Kasserine region.
The jihadist group said on its official Twitter feed that its forces attacked the Tunisian army in the Mount Chaambi area of Kasserine, resulting in “large injuries in the apostate army.” Tunisian authorities have said that the soldiers were killed “after an exchange of gunfire with terrorists.” Additionally, a local herder was kidnapped by the al Qaeda battalion.
In additional tweets, the group said that it was starting a “new stage in the conflict with Tunisia and their supporters who reported the mujahideen.” It also claimed to have “finished off” several Tunisian spies in recent days, including the local herder.
The attack comes almost two months after the Uqba bin Nafi battalion killed a customs agent in the Bouchebke area of Tunisia. In the initial claim of responsibility released for the Aug. 24 attack, 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. In addition, the group killed four security officers near the Algerian border earlier this year. Its most deadly attack on the Tunisian military happened in the Mount Chaambi region last July, an incident that left 15 soldiers dead and 20 others wounded.
While it has been erroneously reported in the past that the Uqba bin Nafi battalion defected to the Islamic State, the jihadist group has released copious material making its allegiance to al Qaeda very clear. In a February video claiming an attack on Tunisian forces, the battalion openly advertises its AQIM link. AQIM also released a statement congratulating the “knights” for “taking revenge for the vulnerable in Tunisia.” In a video released earlier this year, a group of fighters in the battalion specifically state that the organization is part of AQIM. In the same video, pictures of Ayman al Zawahiri, the overall leader of al Qaeda, and Abdulmalek Droukdel, the leader of AQIM who is a staunch opponent of the Islamic State, can be seen.
Uqba bin Nafi also has ties to Ansar al Sharia Tunisia (AST), which is closely-tied to AQIM. AST has been listed as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the US State Department. [For more on Ansar al Sharia, AQIM, and the Uqba bin Nafi Battalion, see LWJ reports: Tunisian government arrests al Qaeda cell tied to Ansar al Sharia, Tunisian government alleges longtime jihadist involved in assassinations, Ansar al Sharia responds to Tunisian government, AQIM battalion takes credit for killing 4 Tunisian security officers and Tunisian government: Ansar al Sharia is a terrorist organization.]