Tunis: Two suspected jihadists were killed on Wednesday during a security operation near the Tunisian capital against a cell planning “simultaneous” attacks, the interior ministry said.
Sixteen others were arrested during the operation in Ariana province just outside Tunis, and Kalashnikov assault rifles, pistols and ammunition were seized, it said.
The ministry said the suspects had gathered in the area from different parts of the country “to prepare simultaneous terrorist operations”.
A resident of the Sanhaji district told AFP that a two-hour gunbattle erupted with the suspects after the national guard launched the raid at around 8 am (0700 GMT).
“They were not from the neighbourhood. We didn’t know them. They rented the house recently,” she said.
Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring, has suffered from a wave of jihadist violence since its 2011 revolution that ousted longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
The Islamic State group claimed brazen attacks last year on the National Bardo Museum in Tunis and a beach resort near Sousse that killed a total of 60 people, all but one of them foreign tourists.
A November suicide bombing in the capital, also claimed by IS, killed 12 presidential guards and prompted the authorities to declare a state of emergency.
Thousands of Tunisians have joined jihadist groups in conflict zones such as Iraq, Syria and Libya over the past few years.