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Monday, January 17, 2011     FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

Divided Tunisian security forces battle each other for control

CAIRO — Sources said Tunisian security forces have turned on each other since President Zine Al Abidine Bin Ali fled the North African state on Jan. 14. They said military, police and special forces have been engaged in battles in Carthage amid the power vacuum in Tunisia.


"Right now, there is a battle for control over the military and security forces," a Tunisian source said.

On Jan. 16, Tunisia's presidential guard fought special forces units in Tunis near Bin Ali's former palace. The sources said the battle appeared to be linked to the arrest of the commander of Bin Ali's security force, Gen. Ali Seriati. Seriati has been charged with plotting a coup against the new civilian leadership.

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The sources said the battles in Carthage included automatic fire and rocket-propelled grenades. There was no word on casualties.

Security and military units were also said to have exchanged fire throughout the Tunis area on Jan. 14-15. The sources said the battles were attributed to senior commanders loyal to Bin Ali, including his son.

Gun battles were also reported around the Interior Ministry and near the Tunisian Central Bank. In both cases, the identity of the combatants were unclear.

Bin Ali was said to retain thousands of loyalists in the military and security forces. The sources said the loyalists might be working with political allies of Bin Ali to stage a coup.

"Everything remains very fluid, and the military might decide to intervene directly," the source said.

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