US delivers two more patrol boats to ally Tunisia

Tunisia will also be equipped with new coastal radars to bloster the navy

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Tunisia’s army on Monday received two American patrol boats as part of a deal concluded with the United States to help battle terrorism and illegal migration.

Tunisia has suffered from a wave of militant violence since the 2011 revolt that ousted longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, which has killed dozens of soldiers, police officers and civilians.

ISIS has claimed brazen attacks in the North African country, including in 2015 on the National Bardo Museum and at a beach resort that killed 59 foreign tourists.

Tunisia has also been a stepping stone for African migrants seeking to travel to Europe on rickety boats that cross the Mediterranean.

In 2012, authorities struck a deal with the United States for military assistance and the military had already received two of six patrol boats.

Another two were handed over during a ceremony at the Bizerte naval base in the north of the country, attended by the US ambassador and senior officials.

The remaining two boats are expected to be delivered within a year.

Ambassador Daniel Rubinstein said in addition to the patrol boats “starting this summer 13 radar stations along the Tunisia coast will be equipped with new coastal radars” to bolster the navy.

The boats and radar stations, as well as joint naval exercises later this year “represent a clear picture of the strong US commitment” to Tunisia as it battles extremism and tackles the “unprecedented migrant flows across the Mediterranean”, said Rubinstein.

He added that the US would assist Tunisia with installing a border security system along its frontier with Libya.

Tunisia has built a 200-kilometre (125-mile) barrier that stretches about half the length of the border in an attempt to prevent militants from infiltrating.

In 2015, the United States designated Tunisia a major non-NATO ally, a status that allows for reinforced military cooperation.

And in May last year it delivered military hardware, including light aircraft, jeeps and communications systems as part of a $20-million package to bolster its military capabilities.

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