The Latest: Tunisia premier says IS responsible for attack

AP News
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Posted: Mar 07, 2016 3:52 PM
The Latest: Tunisia premier says IS responsible for attack

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — The Latest on the fighting in a Tunisian town bordering Libya (all times local):

9:30 p.m.

Tunisia's prime minister says an attack by extremist gunmen on a Tunisian town near the Libyan border was an effort by the Islamic State group to establish a stronghold in the region.

Habib Essid pinned blame on Islamic State during a speech Monday night on Wtaniya television. He was speaking after daylong clashes in the town of Ben Guerdane between gunmen and security forces. No group has claimed responsibility.

Essid said Tunisian security forces had achieved "positive results," noting that Tunisia estimates that 35 attackers are among the 53 dead.

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7:15 p.m.

Corpses are lying in the street and extremist gunmen are hiding in homes in the Tunisian town of Ben Guerdane as security forces try to flush them out, according to witnesses.

Gunfire rang out near the town's main avenue as darkness fell Monday, after an exceptional day of clashes and tension, said resident Raoudha Bouttar, a local journalist.

"I see three corpses on the ground," she said.

Another witness, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of repercussions from the attackers, said the gunmen spoke of creating a caliphate and "liberating" the town.

Monday's standoff is among the deadliest violence Tunisia has ever seen between security forces and extremists.

—by Bouazza ben Bouazza

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6:45 p.m.

Tunisia's government says the death toll in clashes between gunmen and security forces in a town bordering Libya has risen to 53.

The interior and defense ministries say in Monday night's statement that security operations are continuing in the town of Ben Guerdane.

The statement says 35 extremists, seven civilians and 11 members of the security forces have been killed in fighting that began at dawn Monday.

The violence comes amid increasing concerns about Islamic State extremists in Libya.

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5 p.m.

Tunisia President Beji Caid Essebsi says his country is waging war against barbarians following an attack that left at least 45 people dead near the Libyan border.

Speaking from the capital Tunis, Essebi says extremists now pose a security threat to the entire country.

Essebsi said Monday: "This is an unprecedented attack, planned and organized. Its goal was probably to take control of this area and to announce a new emirate. The majority of Tunisians are now in a state of war against barbarism."

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack in the town of Ben Guerdane on Tunisia's eastern border.

Commenters on two Islamic State-affiliated websites say militants loyal to the extremist group are involved in the attack.

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3:00 p.m.

Tunisia's government says 45 people have been killed after extremists attacked a town near the Libyan border.

The interior and defense ministries said in a statement that the Tunisian government has closed its two border crossings with Libya because of the attack Monday.

The statement says 28 "terrorists" have been killed in the fighting, seven civilians and 10 members of Tunisia's security forces.

The attack comes amid growing international concern about Islamic State extremists in Libya.

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11:50 a.m.

Tunisian authorities say 26 people have been killed in clashes between Tunisian police and unidentified gunmen near the Libyan border.

The interior and defense ministries said in a joint statement Monday that the dead included 21 attackers, one Tunisian soldier and four civilians.

A 12-year-old girl was among the civilians who were killed.

Interior Ministry spokesman Yasser Mosbah earlier told The Associated Press the gunmen targeted a police station and military facilities at dawn Monday in the border town of Ben Guerdane in eastern Tunisia.

The violence comes amid increasing international concern about Islamic State extremists in Libya. Tunisia's fledgling democratic government is especially worried after dozens of tourists were killed in extremist attacks in Tunisia last year.

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9:15 a.m.

Tunisia's Interior Ministry says several people have been killed in clashes between Tunisian police and unidentified gunmen near the Libyan border.

The violence comes amid increasing international concern about Islamic State extremists in Libya and after dozens of tourists were killed in extremist attacks in Tunisia last year.

Ministry spokesman Yasser Mosbah says gunmen attacked a police station and military facilities at dawn Monday. He says security forces killed a large number of assailants. Hospital official Abdelkrim Sakroud said on state radio that three corpses had been brought to the hospital, including that of a 12-year-old girl.

The Tunisian military sent reinforcements and helicopters to the area around Ben Guerdane in eastern Tunisia and authorities are hunting several attackers who are at large. The ministry urged residents to stay indoors.