Africa

Tunisian police killed in suspected militant attack

Forces from Tunisia's National Guard Image copyright AFP
Image caption Forces from the National Guard were the target of the attack (file image)

Four Tunisian policemen have been killed in an attack by suspected Islamist militants near the Algerian border.

About 20 men opened fire at a National Guards convoy in Kasserine province and seized weapons, an interior ministry spokesman said.

He blamed Okba Ibn Nafaa, a small group of al-Qaeda affiliated fighters.

Tunisia has seen a rise in hardline Islamist groups since the toppling of President Ben Ali in 2011.

The fighters often target security forces in remote parts of southern and central regions, but there are concerns that violent attacks could spread to the capital Tunis.

Last year, Okba Ibn Nafaa killed least 14 soldiers in rifle and rocket-propelled grenades attack on two checkpoints, the deadliest strike on Tunisia's armed forces.

It's also believed that up to 3,000 Tunisians have been fighting in Syria's civil war in recent years and that some have joined the ranks of the Islamic State.

The government has vowed to combat terrorism and eradicate its roots from the country.

Earlier this month, authorities said they arrested 32 militants, including some who had returned from fighting in Syria. They claimed the detainees were planning attacks against government institutions including the Interior Ministry.

Tunisia recently formed a coalition government of secularists and Islamists in a move that was hailed as the most successful transition to democracy in the region.

Neighbouring Libya has seen a rise in violence in recent weeks due to the increased presence of radical Islamist groups.

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