Tunisian security forces have killed a senior member of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Algeria had been looking for the suspect, identified as Bilel Kobi, for two and a half decades, officials said.
“A terrorist wanted by Algeria since 1993 was killed in an operation carried out by the Special Unit of the National Guard,” Tunisian interior ministry spokesman Khlifa Chibani said Saturday.
Kobi had been charged with overseeing links between the network, known by its French initials AQMI, and its Tunisian branch, the official said on condition of anonymity. Kobi, an Algerian, was close to AQMI leader, Abdelmalek Droukdel.
The Friday evening operation took place in the Mount Sammama area of central-western Tunisia, which lies in a range of hills that are a favoured hideout of al-Qaeda and Islamic State group jihadists.
It is adjacent to Mount Chaambi, considered to be the jihadists’ main rear base near the border with Algeria.
The area is the scene of regular clashes between the army and jihadist groups.
Tunisian authorities announced last spring that they had killed several members of AQMI’s Tunisia branch, which had claimed a series of deadly attacks against security forces.
Since its 2011 revolution, Tunisia has faced a jihadist insurgency responsible for the deaths of dozens of soldiers, police, civilians and foreign tourists.
Tunisia has been under a state of emergency since November 2015, when a suicide bombing in Tunis claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group killed 12 presidential guards.
The last major attacks were a series of deadly operations in 2015 and an IS offensive into the town of Ben Guerdane on the Libyan border in March 2016.
Thousands of Tunisians have joined jihadist groups fighting in Iraq, Syria and neighbouring Libya.