Tunisia bolsters security near Doux

Yesterday Tunisian army units were redeployed from the towns of Douz, Matmata and Kebili to scour the area around Alouat Karnafa, after a gunfight late Friday between soldiers and unidentified armed men.

TUNIS //Tunisia's army stepped up deployments near the southern desert town of Douz yesterday following a gunfight late Friday between soldiers and unidentified armed men, the state news agency reported.

While the gunmen's identities remained unclear, security sources cited by Reuters said the men were Libyan, but did not link them to the forces of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi or rebel fighters seeking to overthrow him.

War in Libya has periodically spilt into Tunisia, with rockets falling near the border and wounded from both rebel and government forces seeking treatment at Tunisian hospitals.

Tunisia has taken a neutral stance on the conflict, maintaining open border crossings that serve as lifelines for Libyans desperately short of food, fuel and other supplies. Thousands of Libyans have sought refuge in Tunisia in recent months.

However, Tunisian armed forces deployed along the Libyan border have barred access to Libyan government troops seeking to enter Tunisia in the course of skirmishes with rebel forces.

This weekend's clash began late on Friday when a resident of Douz spotted several vehicles loaded with weapons in the village of Alouet Karnafa, about 70 kilometres south of Douz and within several hours' drive of the Libyan border, and alerted police, said the state news agency.

The origin of the vehicles was unclear. The state news agency said that they were unmarked, but a military source cited by Agence France-Presse said that they carried Libyan plates.

When police arrived, the occupants of the vehicles opened fire, prompting Tunisian army units to surround the area and retaliate, the state news agency said. The fight continued until dawn yesterday, causing several casualties.

The agency did not state how many were injured, or whether there had been any deaths.

Yesterday Tunisian army units were redeployed from the towns of Douz, Matmata and Kebili to scour the area around Alouat Karnafa, the state news agency said.

 

jthorne@thenational.ae

Published: August 21, 2011 04:00 AM

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