Tunisia arrests suspected Al-Qaeda branch leader

Tunisia has arrested a suspected branch leader of Al-Qaeda in North Africa, along with several others suspected of planning “terrorist” attacks, a judicial spokesman said Friday.

“Two dangerous wanted individuals, one of whom is an Al-Qaeda leader”, were arrested in Tunis, Mohsen Dali told AFP.

Authorities also arrested three others accused of providing material and logistical support for organising “terrorist” acts, Dali added, without providing details of what type of operations were planned.null

All five suspects were Tunisian, he said.

The interior ministry had said in a statement late Thursday that the arrested branch leader had already carried out “missions” abroad in an area where jihadist groups operate, without specifying which country.

The Tunisian offshoot of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, is known as Okba Ibn Nafaa.

Initial investigations indicate the suspect had been consulting with other leaders of the group to plan “terrorist operations in Tunisia”, according to the ministry.

Authorities seized a weapon and ammunition during the suspect’s arrest, it added.null

The announcement of the arrests comes days after the sacking of interior minister Taoufik Charfeddine over high-level staffing changes he sought to make to some security agencies, according to a recent statement from Tunisia’s prime minister.

Tunisia faced a rise in jihadist activity after its 2011 revolution, with attacks killing dozens of security personnel, civilians and foreign tourists.

The presidency last month announced a six-month extension of Tunisia’s state of emergency, in place since a 2015 attack on a presidential guard bus claimed by the Islamic State group. (Guardian)

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