Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi says his country is at war with "barbarians," following an attack by suspected militants that left at least 53 people dead near the Libyan border.
Essebsi spoke Monday, hours after dozens of suspected extremists rampaged through the Tunisian town of Ben Guerdan, targeting police and army posts.
"This is an unprecedented attack, planned and organized, and whose goal was probably to take control of this area and to announce a new emirate," the president said from the capital, Tunis.
Television footage showed bodies littering a local roadway, along with bullet-riddled cars and discarded weaponry, as security forces regained control of the town after the dawn attack.
Authorities say at least 10 soldiers were killed in the fighting, along with 35 extremists and seven civilians.
The battle was the second such border clash in and near the town in the past week, and comes as Britain prepares to send military advisers to help secure the porous border region.
Last month, the Pentagon said U.S. warplanes struck a nearby Islamic State training camp inside the Libyan border, killing dozens of terrorist recruits and likely senior Islamic State militant Noureddine Chouchane.
Chouchane was linked to attacks last year on a museum in Tunis, and a beach resort outside the capital, which together killed at least 60 people, most of them foreign tourists.
Tunisia has battled Islamist militancy at home and across its border with Libya since a 2011 popular uprising ousted longtime President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali and ignited the Arab Spring protests that have transformed the region.