07:04 GMT20 October 2020
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    On Tuesday Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi answered questions from lawmakers in his country concerning the presence of a US surveillance drone in Tunisian airspace. Essebsi explained that Washington surveillance devices crossed the Libyan-Tunisian border in an effort to monitor the movements of Daesh militants.

    The presence of the US military in Tunisia is controversial, as some believe it constitutes a violation of the country’s autonomy. Essebi reasoned that American unmanned aerial vehicles were necessary to prevent cross-border attacks by the jihadists. 

    One such incident occurred in March when dozens of Daesh members stormed the Tunisian border town of Ben Guerdan, attacking police and army outposts, and killing 50 people, including civilians. 

    Essebi commented at the time that "Today’s attack on the army, the guards and security in Ben Gerdane since 5:00 AM is unprecedented, organized and was probably meant to control the area and declare a new state (territory)."

    "In fact, I would like the Tunisian people to be proud that the Tunisian army, guards, and security personnel were vigilant in response to previous events. Reinforcements were in place and were poised for an attack," he added, according to EuroNews

    A resident described the attack, saying, "I saw a lot of militants at dawn, they were running with their Kalashnikovs…They said they were Islamic State and they came to target the army and the police."

    Essebi told local channel Elhiwar Ettounsi that the American drone was flown at the request of the Tunisian government. He did not specify whether the unarmed aircraft flew into Libyan territory, but said, "Our agreement with the US was to share intelligence information." 

    Daesh established itself in Libya, partly due to the chaos of the uprising following former Prime Minister Muammar Gaddafi’s death. From there, the terror group is able to initiate attacks against Egypt and Tunisia.

    Essebi stressed the importance of preemptive measures, saying, "We do not have clear information, and we should act instead of waiting until another Ben Guerdan."


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    border clashes, surveillance drone, Beji Caid Essebsi, Libya, Tunisia
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