Battle of Ben Guerdane ‘turning point’ in Tunisia’s History in countering terrorism

The battle against terrorists in Ben Guerdane a year ago was a “turning point” for Tunisia, Prime Minister Youssef Chahed said on Tuesday during a visit to commemorate the anniversary of this event.

Tunisia is marking the first anniversary of Ben Guerdane battle which saw the armed forces and police, supported by locals, bravely foil the bloody plans of Daesh.

A terrorist attack that targeted strategic spots in Ben Guerdane began on March 7 at dawn with a view to taking the city and establishing a “Daesh emirate.” These designs were doomed to fail . Eighhteen fell as martyrs for the sake of the homeland and at least 55 assailants were killed, along with 13 members of the security forces and seven civilians.

Tunisia, which was the target of several terrorist attacks in 2015 in which 72 people were killed — 59 of them foreign tourists — has since been spared any major terrorist violence.

“March 7 is no longer an ordinary day in Tunisia. It has a symbolic value,” the prime minister said at a ceremony held on the occasion.

“To the inhabitants of Ben Guerdane, the town of resistance, your victory in the March 7 battle, the victory of security agents, of our soldiers, marked a turning point in the struggle against terrorism,” Chahed said.

The attacks in 2015 and on Ben Guerdane in 2016 were followed by stronger security cooperation with Tunisia’s Western allies, especially in military equipment and on supervision of the 500-kilometre (300-mile) border with Libya.

Defence Minister Farhat Horchani backed up Chahed’s point, underlining that  “the security situation has improved”.

“Tunisia will defeat terrorism,” he said on Tuesday. We need, absolutely, radical solutions to overcome it. These include cultural, educational and development solutions, he specified.

“Terrorism has nothing to do with religion, but is rather the work of criminal groups that Tunisia’s success does not necessarily please,” he said.

In turn, Interior Minister Hedi Majdoub said “the security situation is, on the whole, stable”. There is no reason to worry, he added, and this “despite the persistence of threats that require vigilance and attention.”

“Tunisia has managed to take a major step forward in increasing the capacity of home security forces,” he said.

He also said that the improvement of the situation on the borders is due to the great co-ordination between the security forces, the Army and the National Guard, considering that “border surveillance is the backbone of the security system”.

During his visit, the premier announced several projects for Ben Guerdane,  that has suffered neglect by central authorities.

Chahed, who was speaking at the Arab Maghreb Square in Ben Guerdane, listed the following decisions:

– Hiring in the public service of one family member of each martyr who fell in the Ben Guerdane events,

– Granting financial assistance to those wounded in these incidents,

– Completing construction works of the local cultural and sports’ complex before summer,

– Building of an omnisports hall in the region,

– Ceding for a symbolic dinar the location of the current Maghreb souk to the Municipality of Ben Guerdane,

– Creation by the end of the summer season a regional office of the National Health Insurance Fund (CNAM) and a Vehicle Roadworthy Test Centre.

During his visit in the region, Youssef Chahed signalled the start of construction of an industrial area that will be fitted out over an area of 15 hectares.

He also kicked off the construction works of an equestrian complex in the region.

The town of 60,000 inhabitants lives off trading, mostly smuggling goods across the border with chaos-strewn Libya.

“I have a message for our politicians: they haven’t delivered on even one percent of their promises,” said a brother of Abdelatti Abdelkarim, a victim of last year’s attacks, echoing local distrust of the authorities.

“What we did (on March 7, 2016), that was to protect our country, our children, not for you,” he said on Shems FM radio.


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