Fighting between Tunisian army soldiers and Islamic State militiamen at the Tunisian border with Libya on Monday left at least 54 people dead, including seven civilians and 10 soldiers. Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi condemned the “unprecedented” attack, denouncing the jihadists’ attempt to proclaim a “new province” of the caliphate.
The Tunisian town is located just 100 miles from the Libyan province of Sabratha, where the U.S. sent air strikes on Feb. 19. The Tunisian authorities have imposed a night curfew and closed its border crossings. The attack, which may have been the Islamic State’s revenge for the Sabratha raids, has undermined the Tunisian government’s ability to control its borders.
And so, almost three months after Libyan factions agreed to form a unity government under Fayez el-Sarraj, unification seems farther and farther away. The country’s two parliaments, each claiming legitimacy, are no closer to a solution.
The prime minister of the government in Tripoli, Khalifa al-Ghawi, made good on his promise to arrest security officers of the new government if they set foot in the city. He detained three members of the Security Committee appointed to proceed with the formation of a national unity government. The U.N. envoy in Libya, Martin Kobler, intervened to demand that they be released and to proceed with elections.