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US gives Tunisia military hardware to bolster security
[TUNIS] The United States on Thursday delivered military hardware to Tunisia to help the North African country hit by several Islamic State group attacks secure its borders and battle terrorism.
Light aircraft, jeeps and communications systems were part of the equipment handed over at a ceremony attended by US official Amanda Dory and Tunisian Defence Minister Farhat Horchani.
Ms Dory, the US deputy assistant secretary of defence for African affairs, said the equipment was part of a US$20-million package to bolster Tunisia's military capabilities.
"I'm very pleased that the United States is able to provide Tunisia with surveillance aircraft that will improve Tunisia's ability to locate terrorists who attempt to infiltrate your borders," she said.
"These aircraft will be able to provide advanced warning to ground forces employing advanced digital communications technology to coordinate rapid introduction utilising these new jeep vehicles or other existing assets."
Mr Horchani, who took delivery of the equipment at the Aouina air base near Tunis, said the "sophisticated" hardware would "strengthen our capacity to protect our land and maritime borders in the face of regional security challenges".
Tunisia was hit by a series of deadly IS attacks last year on foreign holidaymakers and security forces that killed dozens and dealt a devastating blow to the tourism industry, a mainstay of its economy.
Officials regularly voice concern about the situation in neighbouring Libya, where IS has built a bastion in the coastal city of Sirte which it overran last year and turned into a training camp for militants.
Tunisia has built a 200-kilometre (125-mile) barrier that stretches about half the length of its border with Libya in an attempt to prevent militants from infiltrating.
"The surveillance capability will increase the government of Tunisia's awareness of activity along your borders, it is another example of how the United States and Tunisia cooperate to gather additional information about potential threats," said Ms Dory.
She said Washington was keen on "strengthening and expanding the security cooperation partnership between our two countries as together we confront growing instability in the region and support Tunisia in its sovereign defence against potential threats."
"We commend the ministry of defence for taking an important step in constructing a barrier on your southern border" with Libya, she added.
Last year the United States designated Tunisia a major non-NATO ally.