Al Qaida has built training camps on Tunisia-Algeria border
LONDON — Al Qaida has opened a new front in North Africa, a report said.
The Portuguese Institute of International Relations and Security asserted that Al Qaida Organization in the Islamic Maghreb has established a presence along the frontier between Algeria and Tunisia. In a report, the institute said AQIM deployed hundreds of fighters and built training camps around Mount Chambi some 250 kilometers southwest of Tunis.
"The new front that AQIM and its associates seem to be exploring is further north of the Sahara in the Tunisian-Algerian borderland," the report, titled "Changing Security Dynamics In North Africa And Western Sahel Region," said. "At the end of April 2013, Tunisian armed forces discovered a whole clandestine sophisticated insurgency infrastructure of training camps in the Chambi upland, 150 miles southwest of Tunis, beside the Algerian border."
Researcher Noureddine Jebnoun said the training camps were believed to have been operated by an affiliation of AQIM called Katibat Uqba Ibn Nafa'a. The report said Katibat, or brigades, was producing improvised explosive devices that consisted of plastic and ammonium nitrate against security and military personnel to prevent access to Mount Chambi.
"Under the pressure of the Tunisian military, the group started relying more on antipersonnel as well as antitank landmines obtained from the Libyan arsenal," the report, dated Feb. 15, said.
The Lisbon-based institute said AQIM fighters have been responsible for bloody attacks along the Tunisian border with Algeria. The report said Uqba, comprised of Algerians, Mauritanians, Nigerians and Tunisians, was killing Tunisian Army and security officers in ambushes and stealing their weapons.
"The tactics used by the group appear inspired by those of AQIM employed against Algerian security forces," the report said. "After being murdered, the soldiers were stripped from their uniforms and equipment and their throats were slit."
Tunisia has broadcast confessions of captured Uqba fighters. The fighters said they received training in the Russian-origin AK-47 assault rifle, IEDs while others were assigned to provide food and other logistical support.
The report also cited links between Uqba and the Al Qaida-aligned Ansar Al Sharia, also said to operate in Libya. The Tunisian Interior Ministry was quoted as saying that Ansar worked with Uqba to assassinate two secular politicians in 2013 and planned attacks on chemical facilities in Tunisia.
"The rejuvenation of an Islamist insurgency, after having been harshly repressed in 2007, has increased criticism against the interim government for leniency towards extremist groups," the report said. "Like in Egypt, ideological struggle and spread of violence further polarized the division within the Tunisian society between Islamists and the so-called secular-liberals over the political identity of the country."