Friday, August 15, 2014

Jihadists coordinate on Tunisian-Algerian border, by Omar Shabbi

ALGIERS, Algeria — Khaled Chaib, also known as Lokman Abu Sakhr, is an Algerian militant fighting Tunisian soldiers in Mount Chambi, located in the Constantine province of eastern Algeria. 

Algerian security sources who are following the fight against terrorism on the Algerian-Tunisian border told Al-Monitor that armed groups in the two countries seek to coordinate their operations in the area of ​​Mount Chambi. This coordination aims to undermine the efforts of both countries to blockade them before they can receive new fighters and military equipment from Libya.

The source, who preferred to remain anonymous given the sensitivity of the subject, said that fighters from various organizations, including Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Ansar al-Sharia in Libya, are moving across the Tunisian-Libyan border areas to bring arms in and recruit young men to fight in Mount Chambi.

Algerian Khaled Chaib is one of the most prominent fighters in the armed groups in the region. On Aug. 2, the Tunisian Ministry of Interior stated that Chaib was leading the coordination between the armed groups north of Tunis. The ministry also announced it had dismantled five terrorist groups in the suburbs of the Tunisian capital earlier this month, adding that it had arrested Hisham Brabeh, a member of the terror groups who was coordinating with Chaib, while he was attempting to flee toward Libya. According to the ministry, the five groups were planning to carry out a number of assassinations targeting politicians, security officials and journalists.

Chaib joined the ranks of the armed groups in the mid-1990s and became the leader of one such group in the highlands of the border state of Tebessa, which stretches from the mountains of Bodjan in Khenchela to El-Ma El-Biod and Um Leqmaqem near Bir el-Ater in southern Tebessa. He then joined ِAQIM when it was established in 2007.

He has been sentenced to death in absentia at least three times by the Algerian judiciary, according to Algerian security agencies, and is one of the Tunisian authorities' most wanted terrorists. He is accused of numerous terror attacks in the western regions of the country on the border with Algeria.

The Tunisian Ministry of Defense announced that armed groups carried out an operation on July 16 in Mount Chambi. As a result, 14 soldiers were killed in two simultaneous attacks targeting a military patrol in Hanchir Ettala in Mount Chambi.

The ministry stated that the attack was carried out by two terrorist groups who showered soldiers with rocket-propelled grenades and a hail of bullets from several directions. This ambush was the highest death toll so far in this new war fought by the modestly equipped and staffed Tunisian army against the armed groups.

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