Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s (AQIM) Uqba bin Nafi Battalion has claimed credit for an attack that left four members of Tunisia’s security forces dead yesterday. Approximately 20 fighters were responsible for the assault, according to Tunisian officials.
There were reports late last year that the AQIM-backed fighters had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. While some jihadists in Tunisia have joined Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s “caliphate,” Uqba bin Nafi Battalion’s statement, along with other propaganda issued by the organization this year, leaves no doubt that the group remains loyal to al Qaeda. The claim of responsibility for the latest attack clearly advertises the battalion’s affiliation with AQIM at the top.
The SITE Intelligence Group first obtained and translated the Uqba bin Nafi Battalion’s message, as well as a separate statement from AQIM praising the killings.
The jihadists patiently set up the ambush of a security vehicle, “studying” the “movements of the soldiers of the tyrant,” SITE’s translation of the Uqba bin Nafi Battalion’s claim reads. The assault resulted in the killing of “four cowardly apostates from the pagan guards [Tunisia’s National Guards] and taking their belongings, which were represented in four Steyr weapons with their ammunition, a wireless device, a mobile, and different documents.”
The group says the “unique operation” is part of a “series of revenge operations for the vulnerable Muslims, and on top of them the female martyrs of the epic of Oued Ellil.”
Tunisian security forces targeted militants in a home in Oued Ellil, which is west of Tunis, in October of last year. Six people, including five women, were killed during the raid. Tunisia’s Interior Ministry spokesman, Mohamed Ali Aroui, claimed at the time that the women were planning to travel through Libya to Syria, where they allegedly intended to join other jihadists.
The “Muslim Africa” Twitter account posted a short message from AQIM, along with a picture of four caskets draped in the Tunisian flag, according to SITE. AQIM praises the “knights” for “taking revenge for the vulnerable in Tunisia.”
The Tunisian government first exposed the connections between the Uqba bin Nafi Battalion, AQIM and Ansar al Sharia Tunisia, which is closely tied to AQIM, in 2012 and then again in 2013.