Algeria and Tunisia join forces to fight 'terrorism'

Algeria and Tunisia join forces to fight 'terrorism'
Analysis: A joint operation has reportedly led to the death of Algerian militants believed to be behind the recent attack on the Bardo museum in Tunis.
2 min read
30 March, 2015
The joint Tunisia-Algeria operation reportedly killed several militants [AFP]

Algeria is understood to have sent investigators to Tunisia following the reported death of Khaled Hamadi al-Shayeb, the alleged mastermind of the Bardo museum attack, along with two other Algerians. All three were killed on Sunday in Gafsa governorate on the Tunisian-Algerian border.

Algerian authorities have sent DNA samples belonging to Shayeb's relatives with its investigators, who will attempt to confirm the identities of the deceased.

A special anti-terrorism unit is understood to have killed the three Algerians, and six other suspected militants, while the gunmen were travelling to the Libyan border to pick-up materials for car bombs.

Najem Gharsalli, Tunisia's interior minister, told reporters on Sunday that Shayeb, also known as Abu Sakhr, the Algerian leader of the Uqba bin Nafi Battalion, had been killed, along with his brother Maymoun and another Algerian named Anas al-Atri.

"Abu Sakhr has mastermined many crimes, including the beheading of Tunisian soldiers and the targeting of the home of former Tunisian interior minister, Lotfi Ben Jeddou," said Gharsalli.

     Algeria recently gave Tunisia military equipment to help form an anti-terror and terrorist tracking unit.

Ali al-Zawi, a counter-terrorism expert, said Abu Sakhr had helped introduce militant activity to Tunisia.

"By killing the group's leader, Abu Sakhr and a number of his close associates, Algeria and Tunisia have neutralised a prominent and brutal terrorist," he said.

Luqman Abu Sakhr was born in 1984 in the town of El Ma El Biodh in Algeria's Tebessa province. He joined al-Qaeda in the Maghreb in 2003 and was active in Tebessa province before moving to the Uqba bin Nafi Battalion in Tunisia's Chaambi mountains. He was wanted in Algeria for his alleged role in a string of fatal attacks.

Sunday's operation was the result of Algerian and Tunisian security and intelligence cooperation. 

"Joint analysis of documents found by the Tunisian army in a terrorist hideout, and the arrest of two members of the Uqba bin Nafi Battalion, helped identify the route members of the terrorist group took to collect the car bombs," said Algerian security sources.

The same sources explained that troops from both countries encircled the two-car convoy along a mountain pass in Gafsa, near the shared border. Tunisian forces then engaged the group while Algerian forces stopped its members fleeing into Algeria.

Gharsalli has previously thanked Algerian authorities for supporting Tunisia's "anti-terror" activities. Algeria, meanwhile, recently gave Tunisia military equipment to help form a counter-terrorism tracking unit.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.