FOUR Tunisian soldiers were killed and six wounded Tuesday in an ambush in the Kasserine region where the military is battling jihadists, state television reported.
“Four soldiers have died as martyrs and six were wounded in an ambush against a military patrol,” the Wataniya 1 channel reported, quoting the defence ministry.
The channel had earlier given a toll of two dead and three wounded.
It gave no further details and officials at the defence ministry could not be immediately reached.
A military source told AFP that the attack took place not far from the city of Sbeitla. Several Tunisian media reported that the soldiers came under fire with a rocket-propelled grenade.
Kasserine lies near the border with Algeria at the foot of Mount Chaambi, where soldiers and police have since 2012 been hunting down jihadists blamed for deadly attacks that have killed some 60 police and soldiers.
Nafaa Brigade’s bloody hand
Authorities have blamed the main armed group active in the area, the Al-Qaeda-linked Okba Ibn Nafaa Brigade, for a series of attacks including last month’s massacre at the national museum in Tunis that left 21 foreign tourists and a policeman dead.
Tunisian security forces said last month they had killed the alleged mastermind of the attack—Lokmane Abou Sakhr—along with at least eight other members of the group.
The attacks will only increase concerns whether Tunisia, the only North African and Middle East country that seemed to have profited from the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings and transitioned to a democracy elected in free elections, will be able to protect these gains.
In Egypt, the military overthrew popularly elected Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, after he came to power in the political wave that followed the ouster of long-ruling dictator Hosni Mubarak in February 2011 in the chain of uprisings that started in Tunisia and toppled strongman Zine el Abidine Ben Ali there.
Buffeted by Islamist violence, in 2014 Egyptians elected former general Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as president, in an election diminished by poor turn-out and a boycott by the Muslim Brotherhood.
However, the Egyptians who turned out to vote said a firm hand like Sisi’s was the one that would best stem violence.
Neighbouring Libya is disintegrating as various militant groups, including Islamic State, fight to carve it up, with an embattled internationall-recognised government besieged in the capital Tripoli.
Reversals in Tunisia, would negate the last standing beneficial outcome of the Arab Spring, and also raise questions as to whether other protests, like the one that ousted president Blaise Compaore in Burkina Faso last October after he tried to fiddle the constitution and stay in office, will entrench democracy on the continent..