Two Tunisian soldiers killed in hunt for Islamists near Algeria

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 06, 2013 4:40 AM
Two Tunisian soldiers killed in hunt for Islamists near Algeria

TUNIS (Reuters) - Two Tunisian soldiers were killed and four wounded in a landmine explosion near the Algerian border where security forces are pursuing Islamist insurgents, an army spokesman said on Thursday.

The incident is the latest of several mine blasts in the remote area of Mount Chaambi, the focus of a hunt for Islamist militants since December. On Saturday, three soldiers were wounded in the area, southwest of the capital Tunis.

"Two soldiers were killed and four others wounded in the blast, in the hunt for terrorists," army spokesman Mokhtar Ben Nasr said.

Tunisia, which was long one of the most secular states in the Arab world, has been struggling to contain hardline Islamists who have become more active since the overthrow of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011.

The Islamist-led government blamed militant Salafis for the assassination in February of secular opposition politician Chokri Belaid, whose death provoked Tunisia's biggest street protests since Ben Ali's fall.

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Salafis have also targeted alcohol outlets in several Tunisian cities, prompting secularists to accuse them of having formed a religious police and threatening the state.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian, Editing by Gareth Jones)