Two soldiers wounded in Tunisia jihadist hunt

Two Tunisian soldiers were wounded Monday when a device exploded in the Mount Chaambi border region during the ongoing hunt for a group of jihadists who have mined the area, a medic said.

"Two soldiers were wounded, one of whom lost his leg and the other was hurt in one eye," said a doctor at the hospital in Kasserine, the regional capital just a few kilometres from the theatre of operations.

Last week, 15 members of the security forces were wounded by handmade explosive devices in the remote region near the Algerian border, triggering a major operation to take out the "terrorist" group and demine the area.

The interior ministry admitted on Saturday that it had lost track of the Islamist militants in the wooded mountainous terrain which covers an area of around 100 square kilometres (40 square miles).

It said they numbered no more than 20 people, but a military source involved in the operations told AFP that the group was made up of more than 50 fighters.

Since the hunt began, soldiers have seized caches of explosives, documents and food supplies belonging to the group, which was blamed for an attack on a border post in December that killed a member of the national guard.

The security forces have been searching for the jihadists ever since.

In late December 2012, the authorities announced the arrest of 16 militants with links to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, but they have not said whether the group being pursued in the Mount Chaambi region has links to the network.

Since the mass uprising that toppled Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011, radical Islamists suppressed by the former dictator have become increasingly assertive in Tunisia.