Al-Qaida claims attack on Tunisian minister home

By The Associated Press | Posted - Jun. 13, 2014 at 9:20 a.m.

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TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Al-Qaida's North Africa branch claimed responsibility Friday for an attack last month on the home of Tunisia's top security official that killed four police guards.

In a statement published online, Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb said the attack on Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou's home in the southern city of Kasserine was in revenge for the imprisonment of young men calling for Islamic law, and attacks against al-Qaida members in nearby mountains.

The minister wasn't home, though his family was, when some 15 attackers arrived in a pickup truck and opened fire on his residence on May 28.

It is the first time al-Qaida has claimed responsibility for an operation inside Tunisia, previously describing it as a territory for recruitment, rather than holy war.

In the past year, Tunisia has outlawed the al-Qaida-linked Ansar al-Shariah extremist movement and repeatedly tried to dislodge militants hiding out in remote mountain areas.

Ansar al-Shariah is believed to be involved in the attack by a 2,000-strong mob on the U.S. embassy in Tunis in 2012 that resulted in the death of four of the attackers. Its leader, Seifallah Ben Hassine, has fled to the eastern Libyan city of Dernah, according to the government.

The Al-Qaida statement warned that the minister would not escape a second attack.

The claim came as the government announced the death of two suspected militants in clashes with Tunisian forces over the past few days in the northwestern town of Jendouba, also near the Algerian border.

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