October 12, 2015 / 7:24 PM / in 2 years

Two Tunisian soldiers killed in clashes with militants

TUNIS (Reuters) - Islamists militants killed two Tunisian soldiers who were seeking to free a man kidnapped on Monday in a mountainous area near the border with Algeria, an army spokesman said.

Tunisia’s army has been carrying out operations in the area after two major attacks this year claimed by Islamic State.

“Two soldiers have been killed and four others wounded after clashes in the Sammama mountains in Kasserine, in clashes with terrorists,” spokesman Belhassen Ouuslati said.

“The forces were seeking to liberate a civilian man who was kidnapped by terrorists in Sammama mountains,” he added, without identifying which group might be responsible. He also gave no further details about the kidnapping.

Security sources said that the kidnapped man was a shepherd.

Okba Ibn Nafi, a local Islamist group linked to Al Qaida, said on Twitter it had executed the kidnapped man and said he was a spy for the police.

Four years after it ousted autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali and inspired the “Arab Spring” protests, Tunisia has a new constitution, free elections and a coalition government with secular and Islamist parties.

But more than 3,000 Tunisians have left to fight for Islamist militant groups in Syria, Iraq and neighboring Libya. Some of those jihadists have threatened to return home and carry out attacks on Tunisian soil.

In March, Islamist gunmen killed 21 tourists in an attack at the Bardo Museum in Tunis, and 38 foreigners were killed by another gunman in an assault on a Sousse beach hotel in June.

Officials said all three attackers were trained in jihadist camps over the border in Libya, where political chaos has allowed Islamist militants to grow in strength.

Reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by Alison Williams, Larry King

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