Tunisia's interior minister said the government has killed a leader of an armed opposition group and nearly wiped out his followers, as European tourists continue to leave the country amid fears of new attacks.
Interior Minister Najem Gharsalli told reporters late Sunday night that recent security operations have targeted key members of Al-Qaeda-linked Okba Ibn Nafaa Brigade.
He said that one of the five people killed in an operation Friday was brigade leader Mourad Gharsalli, accused of links to prominent warlords in Algeria and Mali.
The Tunisian minister called the operation a major security success.
Tunisia is trying to defuse criticism from Britain and other nations that it hasn't done enough to protect tourists. Gunmen killed 60 people in attacks on a beach resort and major museum in recent months.
The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has claimed responsibility for the assault on the Imperial Marhaba hotel in the resort town of Sousse, and for the attack on the Bardo Museum in Tunis in March, which left 23 people dead, most of them foreign tourists.
The interior minister said the brigade was plotting attacks in Tunisia and sending Tunisians to fight jihad abroad.
The brigade, based in the mountains near the Algerian border, is allied with Al-Qaeda's North African branch.
Tunisia has struggled with a growing rebel movement since a 2011 popular revolt ended the rule of autocrat Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and the country began its fragile steps toward democracy.
Also on Sunday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the United States is holding discussions with countries in North Africa about locating drones at a base there to heighten monitoring of ISIL.
Such a base near ISIL strongholds in Libya would help the U.S. "fill gaps in our understanding of what's going on" in that region, the newspaper quoted a senior Obama administration official as saying.
U.S. allies Egypt and Tunisia share borders with Libya. But the Journal reported administration officials declined to identify countries that could host U.S. drones, and said no North African country had yet agreed to offer access to a base.