Tunisia's chief of army land forces resigns: official

TUNIS Wed Jul 30, 2014 10:56am EDT

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TUNIS (Reuters) - The commander of Tunisia's army land forces has resigned, the defense ministry said on Wednesday, as the military struggles to contain attacks by al Qaeda-linked militants.

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.

"We confirm the resignation of the General Mohammed Salah al-Hamedi, the chief of staff of the Tunisian army land forces, for personal reasons," Rachid Bouhoula, a defense ministry spokesman said, adding that Colonel Major Mohssen al-Farissi would take the role until the president appoints a new chief.

Clashes between militants and the armed forces have intensified over the years since a 2011 revolt ousted Tunisia's former autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.

Since April, thousands of Tunisian soldiers have been deployed in the Chaambi region bordering Algeria which militants have used as a hideout. Some fighters have been in the area since fleeing French intervention in Mali last year.

(Reporting by Mohamed Argoubi; Writing by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

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