KASSERINE, Tunisia (AFP) – Land mines wounded six soldiers and police in western Tunisia on Tuesday as security forces continued a search for “terrorists” that has already caused casualties, the interior ministry said.
Two men were seriously wounded by Tuesday’s explosions, the ministry said without elaborating, a day after a soldier and a member of the national guard each lost a leg in similar blasts and another was seriously hurt in the eyes.
The explosions occurred during a search operation in the inaccessible Mount Chaambi region, where the security forces have carried out numerous sweeps since last December when a policeman was killed in clashes with gunmen.
The government said Monday the security forces were searching for a group of “terrorists,” but has refused to give further details on the operation. A heavy security presence has been deployed in the region.
Prime Minister Ali Larayedh told reporters Tuesday he was determined to defeat the terrorist threat facing Tunisia, after a government meeting about the ongoing operations in the country’s west.
“Terrorism sows death and has no future, it will not triumph. What will triumph is the will of the people, life, security and stability,” he said.
The national guard, or auxiliary police, staged a demonstration in the regional capital Kasserine with the support of residents, demanding better equipment to detect land mines and protect themselves, an AFP journalist reported.
Other protesters gathered in the city centre and burnt tyres.
Security sources contacted by AFP said Tunisian forces were searching for a small armed group hiding in the mountainous region which it has mined with homemade bombs, according to preliminary reports.
Since the revolution in January 2011 that ousted veteran strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia has witnessed a wave of sometimes deadly unrest blamed by the authorities on hardline Islamists, who were repressed under the former president.
Algeria, Libya and Tunisia agreed in January to strengthen cooperation to secure their long and porous common borders, where arms trafficking is common.