May 23, 2014 / 1:28 PM / 4 years ago

Tunisian soldier killed in landmine explosion near Algerian border

TUNIS (Reuters) - A Tunisian soldier was killed and five wounded on Friday in a landmine explosion near the Algerian border where security forces have been hunting Islamist militants, the army said.

There have been several blasts from improvised mines in the remote area of Mount Chaambi, southwest of the capital Tunis. Officials said Islamists planted mines months ago to hinder troop movements.

Tunisian security forces backed by jets and helicopters last month began an operation to root out al Qaeda-linked militants from a hideout in the Chaambi mountains.

‮‮‮‮‮‮‮‮‬‬‬‬‬‬‬One soldier was killed and five wounded in a landmine blast in Mount Chaambi,” army spokesman Taoufik Rahmouni told Reuters.

Since Tunisia’s uprising in 2011, security forces have been battling militants from the hardline Islamist movement Ansar al-Sharia, which the United States in January listed as a foreign terrorist organization.

One of the Arab world’s most secular countries, Tunisia has been moving towards democracy since the revolt that ousted autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, passing a new constitution and setting elections for this year.

But Islamist militant violence is one of the main challenges for the caretaker government. This year, police have arrested and killed dozens of militants including senior leaders of Ansar al-Sharia

Reporting By Tarek Amara; Editing by Janet Lawrence

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