Tunisia’s interior minister has said that his country has largely destroyed local armed group Okba Ibn Nafaa, suspected of orchestrating the March attack on a museum in the capital, Tunis.
Najim Gharsalli announced on Sunday that the operation ‘broke the spine’ of the al-Qaeda linked group in North Africa.
The Tunisian minister said the operation took place on Friday when Tunisian security forces killed five fighters in clashes in mountains near the central town of Gafsa.
“This operation broke the spine of Okba Ibn Nafaa Brigade. I can say at 90 percent. And this is very important,” Gharsalli said.
Tunisian forces are on high alert after last month’s attack on a beach resort that killed 38 holidaymakers, most of them British, and the Bardo museum massacre by armed gunmen three months earlier.
Okba Ibn Nafaa, which is aligned to al-Qaeda, has been fighting a low-level insurgency against Tunisian authorities near the Algerian border.
But the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has also claimed responsibility for attacks in Tunisia.
“There is no structured organisation in Tunisia called Daesh, this does not mean that there aren’t people who pay allegiance to Daesh, some elements pay allegiance to Daesh,” Gharsali added.
The new leader of Okba Ibn Nafaa brigade Mourad Gharsalli was among those reportedly killed in the operation.