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Two Tunisia soldiers killed in clash with gunmen: Ministry

The soldiers were undergoing an operation to free a man who was kidnapped by an armed group, Tunisia's army says
File photo shows Tunisian security forces on Mount Chaambi, near the Algerian border, on 12 December 2012 (AFP)

Two Tunisian soldiers were killed and four wounded in a clash with armed fighters on Monday in a western region near the Algerian border, the defence ministry said.

"During a search operation, jihadists hiding out on Mount Sammama opened fire on our soldiers. Two soldiers fell as martyrs and four were wounded," ministry spokesman Belhassan Ouselati told AFP.

He said the army operation was launched after a shepherd was kidnapped on Sunday near Mount Sammama in the Kasserine region, located next to a main hideout for gunmen, Mount Chaambi.

"The forces were seeking to liberate a civilian man [who] was kidnapped by terrorists in Sammama mountains," Ouselati told Reuters.

Tunisia has since its 2011 revolution faced an upsurge in violence that has cost the lives of several dozen soldiers and police, with most attacks claimed by al-Qaeda's North African branch.

But the bloodiest attacks, for which the Islamic State (IS) group has claimed responsibility, killed a total of 59 foreign tourists, targeting the national Bardo museum in Tunis in March and a Sousse beach resort in June.

According to the Tunisian government, some 3,000 nationals have left the country to fight in Iraq, Libya and Syria.

Tunisian forces have been carrying out operations around Mount Chaambi in the aftermath of the Sousse attack.

On Friday, Tunisian civil society groups won the Nobel Peace Prize, in a symbolic show of support following the attacks for the country where the Arab Spring was born four years ago.

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