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Four killed in clash on first day of Tunisia’s presidential election campaign

A national guard and three extremists died in the Kef mountains when shooting broke out.

A convoy carrying the body of a Tunisian national guard head to his house in Kasserine (Mohamed Ben Salah/AP)
A convoy carrying the body of a Tunisian national guard head to his house in Kasserine (Mohamed Ben Salah/AP)

By Bouazza Ben Bouazza, Associated Press

A Tunisian national guard chief and three extremists were killed in a clash on the first day of the country’s presidential campaign, authorities said.

National guard officers and army troops were tracking a radical group in the Kef mountains near the Algerian border when shooting broke out, killing the four, national guard spokesman Housameddine Jbabli said.

The security operation was ongoing near the town of Hydra in the Kasserine region, he said.

The country’s prime minister Youssef Chahed, who is among 26 candidates running for president, told reporters that the extremists “were planning large-scale terrorist operations”, without elaborating.

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People gather outside the Kasserine hospital where the body of a killed Tunisian national guard was prepared (Mohamed Ben Salah/AP)

Radio Mosaique reported that two of the extremists were Algerians from the Okba Ibn Nafaa brigade, which is linked to al-Qaida’s North Africa arm.

Tunisian security forces have stepped up land and air operations against extremists hiding in the hard-to-reach mountainous region, where dozens have been killed in clashes in recent years.

Monday’s clash came on the day Tunisia’s presidential campaign officially opened, though did not appear to be linked to the country’s political situation.

Since the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings against autocratic rule, Tunisia’s democratic leaders have struggled to contain Islamic extremism, notably along its borders with Algeria and Libya.

PA

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