US donates 10 tonnes of anti-terror equipment to Tunisian National Guard, police force

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The United States has donated 10 tonnes of protective equipment including helmets, shields and bullet proof vests to equip the special counter-terrorism units of the Tunisian army National Guard and police force as they battle a growing local and regional terrorist threat.

The donation was handed over to Tunisia’s Interior minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou by US ambassador Jacob Walles at a ceremony held in the capital Tunis last week. Ambassador Walles said the donation is a mark of his country’s commitment to ensure that Tunisia remains safe from terrorism as it undergoes a slow transition to democracy.
“The donation of this equipment demonstrates our strong commitment to support Tunisia’s fight against terrorism and our determination to help Tunisia succeed in its transition to democracy.
“Together with the training we are providing, the body armour and personnel protective gear will help save the lives of Tunisia’s security officers and allow them to be more effective in their efforts to dismantle terror groups as it gives them the tools they need to patrol the borders and provide security for the Tunisian people,” Walles said.

Walles said the equipment was provided following Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa’s request for help with special anti-terrorism training and equipment for the security forces. He said the US believes that the proliferation of heavily armed militias and terrorist cells in the country poses a serious threat to the country’s transition to democracy transition.
“President (Barrack) Obama, Vice President (Joe) Biden and the entire US national security team stand together with Tunisia at this critical time and are determined to give it the tools and assistance necessary to defeat terrorism.
“Tunisia will also be among the six African countries which will be part of the new US-led Security Governance Initiative (SGI) that will help nations to strengthen security oversight and management,” he said.

Walles said the US also supports the Tunisian government’s plan to set up a national counter-terrorism intelligence fusion cell which will be staffed by security officers from the ministries of Interior, Defence and Justice.

Ambassador Walles also promised to speed up the delivery of the 12 UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters which were donated to Tunisia last month. He said the US has provided the Tunisia with military aid worth over $100 million since the uprising which toppled former president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali early in 2011.

The country is set to receive military aid worth more than $60 million in 2015 and this includes Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) detectors and detonators and an undisclosed number of boats for the navy.

Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki used his recent visit to Washington to plead for more US aid to help the country defeat an Al Qaeda linked terrorist cell which has found sanctuary in the rugged terrain of the Chaamba Mountains near the border with Algeria.

He said the national army is not in a position to defeat the terrorist groups already operating in the country because it has not received new weapons or training in more than 30 years.
“The military did not have any training or import any arms for 30 years. We need about 12 helicopters, Black Hawks, and we need them now. We also need special devices for night vision and communications to get through the upcoming elections,” Marzouki said.