Land mine kills four Tunisian soldiers: ministry
Tunisian armed forces - REUTERS

TUNIS: Four Tunisian soldiers were killed by a land mine Wednesday in the country’s northwest, where the army has been battling Islamist militants, the defense ministry said.

“Four soldiers aboard a Hummer were killed by a land mine explosion during an anti-terror operation” at Jebel Ouergha in Kef province, said ministry spokesman Rachid Bouhoula.

Weapons “caches of the terrorists were destroyed and units of the security forces pursued these elements,” Bouhoula told AFP.

The incident is the latest in a string of fatalities caused by roadside bombs and land mines in the remote border region, parts of which have been declared closed military zones as the security forces press a campaign against militants holed up there.

On Tuesday, four soldiers and two policemen were wounded when a roadside bomb exploded in the Kef region, two days after a similar attack injured another policeman.

Separately, a landmine killed a 19-year-old Tunisian overnight near Mount Chaambi, further south, according to the interior ministry.

Since late 2012, security forces have been battling jihadists hiding out the Kef and Mount Chaambi regions and thought to be linked to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

More than 20 soldiers and paramilitary police have been killed in the campaign, often by improvised land mines.

Last month, AQIM for the first time claimed responsibility for an attack in Tunisia, which has been rocked by Islamist violence since the 2011 revolution that toppled a decades-old dictatorship and touched off the Arab Spring.

The May 27 attack on the home of the interior minister, Lotfi Ben Jeddou, in the western Kasserine region, killed four policemen.

Authorities say they have gained the upper hand in the fight against jihadists active along the Algerian border, while acknowledging the campaign to root them all out will take time.

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