Tunis — Confessions made by captured terrorist Mohamed Habib Al-Omri have caused a major shock for Tunisians unaccustomed to al-Qaeda’s ruthless violence.
Al-Omri provided details of the bloody terrorist attack that killed eight Tunisian army commandos in Jebel Chaambi during Ramadan, according to an August 12th report by Attounissia.
The 23-year-old reportedly confessed that the ambush was set up by 16 militants organised in four-member groups. Along with six Algerian nationals, terrorists hailed from Mali, Mauritania and Nigeria.
Before his arrest on Eid eve, Al-Omri was not known for any religious or partisan affiliations. But according to a resident of Foussana, a town located along the Algeria border, Al-Omri was known for his recklessness.
“During the revolution, he emerged as a prominent instigator against the regime. He even took part in setting up barriers against the security forces that intervened to quell citizens’ protests in the area,” said Mokhtar, who refused to reveal his full name.
He added that “Al-Omri was absent for more than a year, and he might have gone to Mali to fight the French forces there”.
“He appeared again after his features and the way he dresses, which now shows he belongs to a radical salafist group, changed,” he said.
According to Al-Omri’s confessions, his group attacked the military patrol from all directions and took them by surprise with heavy gunfire just minutes before sunset prayers.
“The terrorists planted landmines on the two sides of the road and behind the place of ambush to prevent any backup from arriving,” Attounissia reported. “When the personnel carrier reached the sharp curve which forces all vehicles to reduce speed and almost stop, they surprised the patrol with a barrage of bullets from all directions, killing the eight soldiers before they could even react.”
According to the defendant’s confessions, after making sure that all patrol members were killed, the terrorists came down and took off the victims’ military uniforms, weapons, night vision goggles, a large quantity of ammunition, supplies, documents and mobile phones.
“Some of them slew five soldiers and mutilated their bodies. A terrorist even wanted to behead a martyr and take a picture with it, but the terrorist group leader prevented him because there was no time. After that, the terrorists withdrew to their hideouts in several locations in Jebel Chaambi,” the paper added.
Pictures aired by state-run TV of the soldiers’ mutilated corpses have angered many Tunisians.
“I think airing the pictures of victims in this state serves the purposes of terrorists who want to discourage the military and sow panic in Tunisians’ hearts,” Ramzi al-Khaledi, a teacher, said.
Salma al-Shatti, an employee at a private sector company, said she regretted seeing the images, adding that she “didn’t expect them to be that horrific and brutal”.
“I spent nights unable to sleep and I even stopped eating for two days. They aren’t humans, but beasts. I don’t think that any divine religion accepts that,” al-Shatti said.
Meanwhile, Tunisia’s High Independent Authority for Audiovisual Communication (HAICA) on July 31st issued a statement condemning the way Tunisia’s state-run TV dealt with this event. HAICA refused to publish the army victims’ pictures.
The ministry of defence also criticised the media outlets that published the pictures of soldiers who were killed and mutilated by the terrorists.
“I think these criminals need psychological treatment, but inside their cells,” said Mourad Slimani, a human rights activist. “They’re monsters as how they relish beheading their victims and taking pictures by their side.”