TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Gunmen attacked the home of Tunisia’s top security official while his family was inside, killing four of the policeman standing guard, the Interior Ministry said Wednesday.
The attack on Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou’s home in the southern city of Kasserine took place just before midnight and involved six or seven attackers in a commandeered sports utility vehicle, ministry spokesman Mohammed Ali Aroui told local radio stations.
The Tunisian public radio said that the minister’s family, including his wife, two children and two brothers had been inside the house during the attack and were unharmed. Ben Jeddou was in Tunis at the time.
Kasserine, in Tunisia’s impoverished interior, is near Mount Chaambi, where soldiers have been battling al-Qaida-linked extremists near the Algerian border. Two soldiers were killed Friday when their vehicle hit a mine on the mountain. Aroui said the attackers were from the Chaambi region.
Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa described the attack as a sign of desperation after security officials arrested suspected Islamist radicals Sunday. Authorities said they uncovered a terror plot allegedly targeting industrial and tourist sites.
“It was an expected reaction to Sunday’s operation by security forces to foil a terrorist group planning to attack the economy and destabilize the country,” he said. “They want to do us harm but they will not beat us.”
Some 16 suspects were arrested, including three Tunisians who had just crossed over from Libya and are believed to be part of the banned, al-Qaida-linked Ansar al-Shariah organization.
The government has blamed a string of political assassinations and terrorist attacks over the last two years on the group, which was also implicated in an attack by a mob in 2012 against the U.S. embassy and a nearby American school. Cars were burned and the school was destroyed.
President Moncef Marzouki declared Wednesday a national day of mourning.
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