A Tunisian soldier has been killed and three others were wounded in a mine blast in the restive Kasserine region, the defense ministry said Saturday, in an attack claimed by al-Qaeda-linked jihadists.
The mine exploded Friday, April 26 on Mount Chambi, in Kasserine, where the army has conducted search operations since 2012 to hunt down jihadists linked both to al-Qaeda and Islamic State, the ministry said.
The area which borders Algeria – a “closed military zone” since 2014 – is considered to be a bastion of Okba Ibn Nafaa, a local affiliate of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
Okba Ibn Nafaa claimed responsibility for the attack, SITE Intelligence Group reported late Friday.
It said an anti-armored improvised explosive device was detonated targeting Tunisian soldiers but did not specify casualties, the monitoring group said.
The attack which the defense ministry said killed a 26-year-old soldier came days after officials said security forces had shot dead a suspected jihadist in the Kef mountains further north.
Update April 29 Al-Qaeda’s Al-Andalus propaganda agency claimed the attack by Okba Ibn Nafaa was in response to the killing of Abu Musab al-Tunisi in the Kef mountains.
It said a roadside bomb struck and completely destroyed a Turkey-made Kipri mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle. Around an hour later, reinforcements came to the scene and they were struck by a second IED.
It further claimed that a U.S.-made UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter also intervened, but that “the Mujahid brothers clashed with it and dealt it a direct hit, causing it to catch fire and descend rapidly.”
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 ISIS-claimed suicide bombing in Tunis killed 12 presidential guards.
With reporting from AFP