TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Tunisian police arrested six new militants this week in their battle against al-Qaida-linked extremists, including one man believed to be connected to the assassination of a leftist politician in February, the Interior Ministry announced Friday.
The arrests bring to 45 the number of militants detained on the mountainous border with Algeria since December, spokesman Mohammed Ali Aroui told reporters. Tunisia has been trying to push back a feared surge of al-Qaida-linked militants who are believed to have fled the French operation to root out extremists in northern Mali.
One of the men arrested maintained weapons caches around the country and the finger prints of Kamel Gadhgadhi — who is accused of assassinating a top leftist politician — were found in his car, Aroui said. If true, the evidence would confirm government suspicions that al-Qaida-linked militants were behind Chokri Belaid's killing, which plunged the country into crisis.
The presentation included photos of many of the alleged militants believed to be still at large in the mountainous Jebel Chaambi region and included 20 Tunisians, six Algerians and an undetermined number of Libyans.
Aroui said that operations along the border area were being conducted in close coordination with Algeria.
He also said that many of the extremists were believed to have links with Ansar al-Shariah, one of Tunisia's most aggressive ultraconservative Muslim groups.