TUNIS: Tunisia will take delivery of eight Black Hawk attack helicopters from the United States this year to help it in the fight against Al-Qaeda-linked jihadists, an official said today.
Defence ministry spokesman Belhassen Oueslati told the private radio station Shems FM that the aircraft would arrive in the second half of 2015.
"These helicopters will be used to carry troops and launch attacks, and will represent a qualitative jump in our means for fighting terrorism," he said.
Tunisia has seen a rise in Islamist extremism since the revolution that ousted veteran strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.
An army offensive against jihadists linked to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has been underway in the remote Mount Chaambi range near the Algerian border since 2012.
But the ground and air campaign has failed to force out the jihadists amid repeated complaints by the armed forces that they lack the necessary equipment to neutralise the militants.
Dozens of police and military personnel have been killed or wounded in attacks blamed on Islamist militants around the Chaambi range.
Oueslati did not say how much the helicopters would cost nor give other further details.
In August, then president Moncef Marzouki said during a visit to Washington that Tunisia had asked Washington to provide it with 12 Black Hawk helicopters, also citing the jihadist threat.
Marzouki said at the time that Tunisia would need to wait two or three years before it could take delivery of the aircraft because of their high cost.