US to give Tunisia $60m in military aid

US official says money will equip country to fight threat posed by al-Qaeda-linked groups including Ansar al-Sharia.

At least 15 soldiers were killed in the mountainous Chaambi region in July alone [Getty Images]

The US is to give Tunisia $60m of military aid to help it fight armed groups who threaten to destabilise the country’s democracy, a senior US official has said.

General David Rodriguez, the head of US Africa Command, said on Tuesday that some of the money would go on equipment to detect improvised explosive devices, new boats and training.

The announcement was made after talks with the Tunisian prime minister, Mehdi Jomaa, and comes three weeks after the US said it planned to sell Tunisia a dozen Black Hawk helicopters worth an estimated $700m.

Attacks on Tunisian troops and officials by the al-Qaeda offshoot Ansar al-Sharia and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb group poses a threat to the country’s stability, as well as an influx of fighters and weapons unleashed by other conflicts in the region.

Since April, thousands of troops have been deployed to Tunisia’s mountainous Chaambi region on the border with Algeria, where fighters fleeing a French military intervention in Mali last year have taken refuge.

At least 15 soldiers were killed in attacks on military checkpoints in the area in July.

Protests in Tunisia in 2010 sparked subsequent revolutions that have transformed the Arab world and in many ways it is more stable and secure than other Arab Spring countries such as Libya, Egypt and Syria.

Source: Reuters