METLAOUI: Relatives of Tunisian soldier Zaki Saidani, who was among 14 soldiers killed this week by suspected jihadists, were shocked yesterday to find the wrong body inside his coffin.
The defence ministry admitted that authorities had delivered the wrong body to the Saidani family, which had gathered to mourn him in their hometown of Metlaoui in central Tunisia.
“My brother had a birthmark on his right cheek but the body that was handed over to us did not,” said the soldier’s brother Mahmoud, after the casket was opened at the family home.
A defence ministry spokesman acknowledged the mistake.
“It is true. Somewhere a mistake has been made,” Rashid Bouhoula said, adding that an investigation was under way and that the bodies would be returned to the respective families.
But furious relatives shouted at several officials, including the local governor, who had come to the Saidani home to pay their respects, forcing them to leave, a correspondent said.
On Wednesday evening, suspected jihadists attacked twin army posts in the remote Mount Chaambi region near the Algerian border, killing 15 soldiers in the worst attack in the Tunisian army’s history.
The assailants took the soldiers by surprise as they were breaking their day-long Ramadan fast, with authorities saying up to 60 “terrorists” — a reference to Al Qaeda-linked jihadists — took part in the attack with machineguns, rocket launchers and grenades.
Eighteen soldiers were wounded and one assailant was killed.
The attack came as the government presses a crackdown on radical Islamists, sparking protests in several cities by residents fed up with violence linked to jihadists.
The interior ministry, meanwhile, said in a statement Saturday that 63 suspects wanted in connection with “terrorism” were arrested the previous night.
It was not immediately clear if they were implicated in the Mount Chaambi attack.