September 17, 2014 / 10:24 AM / in 3 years

Tunisian forces and militants clash near border, two killed

TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisian police killed two Islamist militants in clashes near the Algerian border, the interior and defense ministries said on Wednesday, after Tunis raised the security alert level before elections next month.

Since April, thousands of troops have been deployed in Tunisia’s mountainous Chaambi region on the border with Algeria, where Islamist fighters - some of them linked to al Qaeda - have taken refuge.

“Security and army forces killed two terrorists in the Mezrgue Chams area of Kasserine city. One of them was likely an Algerian,” the defense and interior ministries said in a joint statement.

Security forces seized several weapons, including two Kalashnikov assault rifles and two hand grenades, the statement added.

Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa said on Tuesday that Tunisian security forces were heightening security across the North African country with special focus in border areas monitoring arms smuggling and Islamist groups.

Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jedou last month warned of a militant threat to disrupt the elections and derail the country’s democratic progress.

Since its 2011 uprising, Tunisia has advanced toward full democracy and is seen as a model for the region. Tunisia holds its first full parliamentary elections on Oct. 26 after adopting a new constitution this year.

At least 15 soldiers were killed in attacks on checkpoints in the border area in July. A deputy in Tunisia’s transitional parliament survived an assassination attempt in Kasserine on Sept. 1.

Reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by Patrick Markey and Tom Heneghan

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