Tunisia destroys three vehicles smuggling arms

TUNIS Thu Jun 21, 2012 7:41am EDT

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TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisia's military has destroyed three trucks believed to be transporting weapons from Libya to Algeria, the official TAP news agency reported on Thursday, highlighting growing concerns over border security following the Arab Spring.

TAP said a Tunisian military aircraft destroyed the vehicles in a desert region in the province of Tataouine, near the Libyan border, after their occupants began firing into the air while the aircraft was conducting routine surveillance of the border.

It gave no more details about the smugglers.

Cross-border smuggling of weapons and other goods has been rife since uprisings ousted autocratic leaders in Tunisia and Libya last year. In February, Tunisian forces killed two gunmen and captured a third after clashes with a group of Islamist militants caught with arms smuggled from Libya.

The incidents highlight one of the many challenges Libya's transitional rulers face in imposing their authority over myriad armed groups in the country since Muammar Gaddafi was ousted.

They also expose how under-equipped Tunisian border guards have struggled to clamp down on illicit activities by heavily armed gangs.

Libyan and Tunisian officials have met on several occasions to discuss border security and crossings are regularly forced to close due to clashes or other security problems.

(Writing by Lin Noueihed; Editing by Alison Williams)

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