National Guard Officer  is the sole witness of the Goubellat standoff on October 17 in Beja Governorate (northern Tunisia), which left two of his colleagues dead after a shootout with terrorists.

National Guard Officer  is the sole witness of the Goubellat standoff on October 17 in Beja Governorate (northern Tunisia), which left two of his colleagues dead after a shootout with terrorists.

What started off as a simple investigation into suspicious activity led to this initial confrontation and a mission two days later, resulting in the death of nine terrorists including Faisal Zain, who was involved in the assassination of Mohammed Brahmi, and the arrest of four others, including Saber Trabelsi, who is the leader of the group arrested two days after the Goubellat incident in the city of Ben Guerdane on the Libyan border.

The final mission uncovered a dangerous terrorist den in which 14 modern sniper rifles (which even the Tunisian Interior Ministry does not own) were seized, in addition to 6000 bullets and two tons of explosives ready for use. A map of 50 sites planning to be attacked on October 23– anniversary of the first democratic elections – was also discovered.

Faouzi Meshreky, could you please tell us the last thing you remember before the death of your colleague?

We were shot at as if the doors of hell had opened. I saw the bullets go through the body of my colleague Lieutenant Mahmoud Ferchichi, who stood staring in surprise at his murderers before he fell to the ground.

Would you narrate the events from the beginning? Why had you been engaged with the terrorists?

(Speaking in a rattled voice) A few days before the incident, we received information that there were suspicious movements at certain times of the night at one of the houses in the hilly area of Goubellatis. As National Guards, we were obliged to check the credibility of such information. Therefore, on October 17 at 11:00 AM, on a routine patrol, without reinforcement, we headed to the area for investigation rather than raiding the house as was rumored.

The patrol included Head of National Guards Station Lieutenant Mahmoud Ferchichi, Sergeant Karim Mohammadi and me.  When we arrived at the intended house, the place was suspiciously quiet and I was filled with unfamiliar feelings of uneasiness and alarm. When we stepped out of the vehicle, I felt anxious and grabbed my rifle and held it ready. My colleague Karim noticed what I did so he did the same while Lieutenant Mahmoud stood beside the vehicle across the house.

Tell us about the house.

It is not much different from the neighboring houses. It was a country house with a large courtyard overlooked by several rooms and had more than one door. Karim and I were  behind the vehicle.

Do you think that being covered behind the vehicle saved your life?

(Shutting his eyes) I was unfortunate enough to witness a massacre executed by terrorists. (With a shaky voice) After we stepped out of the vehicle, one of the terrorists named Bilal Riahi, whom we knew well due to his involvement in fuel smuggling, greeted me with affection saying, “Hello Uncle Faouzi, how may I help you?”

How did you respond?

Lieutenant Mahmoud addressed him saying the patrol was on an investigative mission regarding information about suspicious activities at this house and that we needed to look inside.

How did he react?

He was not surprised. He pulled a document from his pocket and showed it to Lieutenant Mahmoud. It was a lease contract dated October 1, 2013. He said, “Give me a minute, I need to ask my wife to be decent, then you may come in.” And then he rushed into the house. I knew he was not married, but I don’t t know why I failed to remember such a fact. He went in for a minute and a half, after which point the gates of hell opened before us.

What happened exactly?

I saw how Lieutenant Mahmoud fell to the ground covered in blood.  At that moment, Karim and I started shooting at the terrorists.

How many were they?

They outnumbered us. They were about 15 individuals whereas we were only two policemen trying to get cover behind our vehicle while shooting back at them. I felt like a mine exploded in my arm twice. I looked and saw my arm dangling by my side, numb and heavily bleeding.

What happened to your colleague?

When I turned to Karim, I found him lying on the ground covered in blood. He was gravely injured and unable to walk or stand. He gave me a look that I will never forget and briefly said, “You are a father of three children, run for your life and do not worry about me… I am dying.” He was then silent trying to hold his gun again. When I watched him die, I recalled the image of my eight-month-old child so I endured my pain and ran with all my power. My son was all I could think of at that moment. The terrorists realized I was trying to escape so one of them quickly ran behind me and hysterically started shooting at me screaming, “Allahuakbar… surrender… Allahuakbar!” but I continued running in a zigzag manner to escape their shots. I hid in a nearby barrier of Cypress trees, which kept me covered.

How did you manage to escape?

Behind the bushes, there was a country house. I went straight to it, but before I reached it, I looked behind me and saw one of the terrorists in a sniper position with his gun directed towards me. I knew my time of death was near so I turned my chest to him proving that I was not afraid to die in the name of my country, but I noticed he ran out of ammunition. Yes, he shot 20 bullets at me, but could not kill me.

You miraculously survived!

I did not believe it was over. I reached the house’s courtyard where an old lady with her son and daughter were standing. They were in fear, but the old woman reached out to me and took off her scarf to put it on my wounds as she pressed them to stop the bleeding. In the meantime, I called the operation room before I finally fainted to wake up afterwards at the hospital.