BEIRUT

Middle East

US to give Tunisia military aid to battle Islamists

Tunisian soldiers patrolling in the Mount Chaambi region where the Tunisian army has been tracking militants, June 11, 2013. (AFP Photo/Abderrazek Khlifi)

TUNIS: The United States will give Tunisia $60 million worth of military aid to help it fight Islamist militants who are threatening the country's nascent democracy, a senior American official said Tuesday.

Speaking after talks with Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa, Gen. David Rodriguez, the head of U.S. Africa Command, said some of the money would go on equipment to detect improvised explosive devices, new boats and training.

Underscoring its concern about the security situation in the small North African state, Washington announced three weeks ago that it planned to sell Tunisia a dozen Black Hawk attack helicopters worth an estimated $700 million.

Protests in Tunisia in 2010 sparked subsequent revolutions that have transformed the Arab world and in many ways it is more stable and secure than other Arab Spring countries such as Libya, Egypt and Syria.

But it is facing a militant threat of its own, mostly due to attacks mounted by the Al-Qaeda offshoot Ansar al-Shariah and to a flow of fighters and weapons unleashed by other conflicts in the region.

Since April, thousands of troops have been deployed to Tunisia's mountainous Chaambi region on the border with Algeria, where fighters fleeing a French military intervention in Mali last year have taken refuge.

At least 15 soldiers have been killed in attacks on military checkpoints in the area last month.

 

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