Tunisia police clash with militants in central city, official says

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Tunisian police killed one Islamist militant and another died when he detonated his suicide explosive belt during an exchange of gunfire in the central city of Sidi Bouzid, a government official said on Sunday.

Tunisia’s armed forces have been cracking down on militants allied to Islamic State and al Qaeda’s North Africa branch, especially since the country suffered four major attacks in the last two years, including two on foreign tourists.

The clash came when police raided a house in Sidi Bouzid where the group had been under surveillance. The group had been in the coastal city of Sousse, where an Islamic State-allied gunman killed more than 30 tourists in a 2015 attack on a beach resort.

“The police engaged in gun fire with these terrorists in Sidi Bouzid. They killed one and another blew up his explosive belt,” the official said. Other suspects were still being pursued.

More than 3,000 Tunisians have gone to fight for Islamic State and other militant groups in Syria, Iraq and neighboring Libya. The government expects some of them to return to Tunisia as militants lose ground in those countries.

A small group of militants linked to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is operating in the Chaambi mountains on the border with Algeria. Islamic State claimed most of the recent attacks in Tunisia, including the Sousse hotel attack and raids by militants crossing from Libya into Tunisia’s Ben Guardane in 2016.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; writing by Patrick Markey; editing by Larry King)