Mine blast badly wounds Tunisia national guards

A land mine explosion seriously wounded two members of Tunisia's national guard on Monday as they pursued a group of armed Islamists near the Algerian border, the interior minister said.

The men were "seriously wounded by the explosion of a mine while they were conducting a search operation at Mont Chaambi targeting terrorist elements on the run," the ministry said, employing a term it uses for Islamist militants.

It gave no further details, and did not say whether the mine was laid by those being pursued in the operation, or if it was a part of the security infrastructure along Tunisia's long and porous western border with Algeria, where arms trafficking is common.

Two security sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the explosion was followed by an exchange of fire between a national guard patrol and the armed group which is thought to be hiding in the mountainous region.

The wounded guards were taken to the hospital in Kasserine, the regional capital, a medical source and a security official told AFP.

One of them had his leg blown off in the explosion, with the other suffering less severe injuries.

The inaccessible Mount Chaambi region has been repeatedly targeted in search operations by the security forces since last December when a policeman was killed in clashes with gunmen in the area.

Shortly afterwards, the authorities claimed to have broken up an Al-Qaeda recruitment cell and arrested 16 suspected members.