Tunisia is in mourning for yet another group of young soldiers slain in Jebel Chaambi.
At least 14 Tunisian soldiers were killed and 20 others injured Wednesday in a surprise attack by terrorists in the closed military zone near the Algerian border.
During iftar, assailants opened fire with machine guns and rocket launchers on two army checkpoints, the defence ministry announced Thursday (July 17th).
“Our national military is resolute and determined to continue confronting terrorism, whatever the sacrifices are for the sake of the homeland,” Colonel-Major Amjed Hammami said.
One soldier disappeared and is presumed kidnapped and one terrorist was eliminated.
This is the heaviest recorded death toll for Tunisian military forces since the 1961 Bizerte crisis.
Mokhtar Ben Nasr, a retired army officer, noted that the terrorist attack coincided with the anniversary of the assassination of opposition politician Mohamed Brahmi and the slaughter of eight soldiers in Jebel Chaambi last Ramadan.
“Extremist groups consider the month of Ramadan to be the month of jihad; hence, they carry out terrorist operations,” he said.
The militants’ use of RPGs in this attack was not surprising, he said, but he pointed out that these are usually employed to target tanks and locations, not people.
The purpose of using these weapons is to damage the largest number, Ben Nasr said.
Tunisian Centre for Global Security Studies head Nasr Ben Soltana predicted that militant groups would launch more attacks against Tunisia.
He also pointed out that the group that carried out the operation was large. Some carried out the attack, others provided support, and some secured the withdrawal.
The Chaambi attack involved some 40 to 60 terrorists, Defence Minister Ghazi Jeribi confirmed Wednesday night.
Anger and shock prevailed on the Tunisian street after this bloody operation.
All media programmes were interrupted and patriotic songs and verses from the Qur’an were aired. Festivals were also halted until the end of the week.
Journalist Mohamed Ali Ben Sghaier criticised Tunisia’s ground method of confronting jihadists.
“While the world fights terrorism with competent and experienced teams and forces specialised in such difficult tasks, and use the most powerful and accurate means and military equipment, our governments send youth not even in their twenties,” he said.
“Some do not have enough experience even to catch a bird, and yet they meet the makers of death,” he added.