Suspected Islamic militants killed eight Tunisian policemen in the impoverished center of the country on Wednesday in violent clashes during a raid.
Members of the National Guard were met with gunfire at an isolated home in the southern village of Sidi Ali Bououn, where a suspicious group was thought to be hiding, Lotfi Hidouri, a spokesman for the interior ministry, told AP.
At least eight officers and two suspected militants were killed in the ensuing clash and four other policemen injured.
This came just days after security forces killed 10 militants. The militants had been blamed for the killing of two officers in an attack on Tunisian police patrols in a remote area near the Algerian border.
The clash is the latest in a string of attacks on security forces which Tunisian authorities blame on Ansar al-Sharia, one of the Islamist militant movements to emerge since the country's 2011 uprising.
Officials say the group has ties to al Qaeda's North Africa affiliate. Two months ago the Islamist-led government declared it a terrorist organization after blaming it for murdering two opposition leaders.
Prime Minister Ali Larayedh said last week that the group's leaders have ties with other militant commanders in the region. He said it had profited from the chaos in neighboring Libya, sending fighters there to train and acquire weapons.
Ansar al-Sharia's leader in Tunisia is a former al Qaeda fighter in Afghanistan who is accused of inciting his followers to attack the US embassy compound in the capital, Tunis, a year ago.
Other militant groups operating in North Africa include al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA), which was scattered earlier this year by the French offensive in Mali.
MUJWA recently said it was joining another group led by veteran Algerian Islamist, Mokhtar Belmokhtar. He masterminded the attack on Algeria's Amenas gas plant in January when nearly 40 foreign contractors were killed.
READ FULL SOURCE ARTICLE: 10/23/2013
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