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Militants kill 2 Tunisian soldiers near Algerian border

TUNIS - At least 2 Tunisian soldiers were killed on Saturday when Islamist militants attacked a checkpoint in a remote area of Kef region near the Algerian border, the second attack on an outpost in less than two weeks, authorities said.

Since April, thousands of Tunisian soldiers have been deployed in the Chaambi region bordering Algeria in an operation to flush out al Qaeda-linked militants. Some fighters have been in the area since fleeing French intervention in Mali last year.

Earlier this month, 15 Tunisian soldiers were killed when dozens of gunmen with rocket-propelled grenades attacked two checkpoints in Chaambi, one of the deadliest strikes on the North African country's armed forces.

“Two soldiers were killed in a confrontation between a military patrol and a terrorist group, in Sakiet sidi Youusef town in Kef,” army spokesman Lamjed Hammami said, without giving more details.

Tunisian state television said three soldiers were wounded in the clashes.

Tunisia has struggled with the rise of Islamist militants since the 2011 popular revolt ended the rule of autocrat Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and began the country's fragile steps towards democracy.

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