Al Qaeda branch claims IED attack on Tunisian soldiers

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s (AQIM) branch in Tunisia, the Uqba bin Nafi Battalio (KUBN), claimed responsibility for an improvised explosive device (IED) attack on a group of patrolling Tunisian soldiers in the Mount Chaambi area of Kasserine. The blast killed at least one Tunisian soldier, while wounding five others.

The claim of responsibility, which was released via AQIM’s Ifriqiyah Muslimah Telegram page, states that KUBN “detonated an IED on a Kirpi armored vehicle, resulting in the killing and wounding of several apostate soldiers.” Additionally, the jihadist group claimed a second IED detonation on another group of Tunisian soldiers that had gathered around the damage vehicle.

However, local media has only reported one IED blast in the attack. Many outlets have reported that one soldier was killed in the initial blast, while five others were wounded. Other outlets have reported that one of the wounded soldiers later died in the hospital, raising the death toll from the blast to two.

This is KUBN’s first claim since July, when it claimed another IED blast on Tunisian security forces near Ghardimaou close to the Algerian border. In that ambush, at least six Tunisian police officers were killed. That July attack on Tunisian forces was the first claimed attack by KUBN since Dec. 2017.

Its most deadly ambush on the Tunisian military occurred in the Mount Chaambi region in July 2014, an incident that left 15 soldiers dead and 20 others wounded.

KUBN has remained a small, but persistent threat against Tunisian security despite the country making significant gains against the group. Several senior leaders have been killed in recent years, including officials sent to KUBN by AQIM to help reorganize the organization. Other raids and operations conducted against KUBN have done a considerable number on the group’s overall effectiveness.

Tunisia also faces a threat from the Islamic State. In 2015, the small North African country saw a spate of attacks conducted by the Islamic State. This includes the terrorist attack on the Bardo Museum, an ambush on a popular beach just three months later, followed by a suicide bombing in the capital Tunis in November. In March 2016, the Islamic State also claimed an assault on the Tunisian town of Ben Gardane near the border with Libya. It continues to claim sporadic attacks inside Tunisia, including one in June near Sfax.

Caleb Weiss is an editor of FDD's Long War Journal and a senior analyst at the Bridgeway Foundation, where he focuses on the spread of the Islamic State in Central Africa.

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