Tunisia says its forces have managed to dismantle a 13-member “terrorist cell” with links to al-Qaeda in a northeastern town.
The Tunisian Interior Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that the suspects were arrested in Hergla, north of the coastal resort city of Sousse, on Tuesday.
According to the statement, the cell’s members, aged between 22 and 43, used to hold “secret meetings in a mosque” and confessed to recruiting and sending 12 youths to operate within the ranks of terrorist groups abroad.
The ministry said the cell was linked to the Okba Ibn Nafaa Battalion, which is affiliated to al-Qaeda.
The announcement was the seventh of its kind in less than a week. Tunisian authorities have detained over 70 people in a growing crackdown on terrorists since December 25.
Tunisia has stepped up efforts following a truck attack claimed by the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group at a Christmas market in the German capital, Berlin, on December 19. Anis Amri, a Tunisian national, was identified as the main suspect in the ramming, which killed a dozen people.
Amri was killed in a shootout with police in the northern Italian city of Milan on December 23.
Tunisia has experienced violence since the 2011 uprising that ousted the country’s dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who was in power for over two decades.
Tunisian security authorities have recently warned about the return of thousands of Takfiri militants fighting for terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria.
Tunisia is among the countries with the highest per capita number of extremist militants fighting in other countries.
More than 3,000 Tunisians are known to have traveled abroad to operate in the ranks of militant groups, according to the Tunisian Interior Ministry. The UN, however, says over 5,000 nationals are in the ranks of militant groups.