April 7, 2015 / 1:42 PM / 2 years ago

Four Tunisian soldiers killed in militant attack on checkpoint

TUNIS (Reuters) - Islamist militants attacked a Tunisian military checkpoint on Tuesday, killing four soldiers and wounding three others in a raid in a central region bordering Algeria.

Tunisian forces have tightened security since gunmen stormed the national Bardo museum in the capital Tunis last month killing 21 foreign tourists in the North African country's worst militant assault in more than a decade.

Army spokesman Belhassen Ousalti said the checkpoint was attacked near the town of Sbitla in the central Kasserine region, close to a mountain range that borders Algeria.

"Security forces are pursuing the terrorists near the Jbel Mguila mountain area," he said.

State news agency TAP, citing a security source, said around 30 to 35 militants were involved in the attack. They opened fire with automatic rifles on the checkpoint.

Since its 2011 uprising against autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia has seen the rise of ultra-conservative Islamists. Some movements, including local militant groups Ansar al-Sharia and Okba Ibn Nafaa, have turned to violence.

Japanese, Polish, Spanish, French and Colombian tourists were among those killed in the Bardo museum attack that the government says targeted Tunisia's vital tourism industry.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for that attack although the Tunisian government said fighters from Okba Ibn Nafaa, which has been mostly based in the Chaambi mountains bordering Algeria, were involved.

Reporting by Tarek Amara; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Tom Heneghan and Crispian Balmer

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