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Two soldiers wounded in Tunisia jihadist hunt

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

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

"The explosion which occurred at 09:30 am (0830 GMT) wounded the first soldier in the leg and the second in the eye," ministry spokesman Colonel Mokhtar Ben Nasr said, cited by the official TAP news agency.

Earlier, a doctor at the hospital in Kasserine, the regional capital just a few kilometres from the theatre of operations, told AFP that one of the two wounded soldiers had lost a leg.

Ben Nasr said the Tunisian army remained "determined to continue with the search operation to track down the terrorists."

But he admitted the military was having trouble securing the area, due to the lack of equipment needed to detect ammonium nitrate, a common but potentially explosive fertiliser used to make bombs.

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.

Rached Ghannouchi, the head of Tunisia's ruling Islamist party Ennahda, on Monday urged "young Tunisians" not to join the "so-called jihad which has no place here... The jihad is in Palestine, not on Mount Chaambi."

"All young Islamists must know that fighting a Muslim is a heresy," he told the radio station Mosaique FM.

The security forces have been trying to track down the militant Islamist group thought to be hiding in the remote Chaambi region since it carried out an attack on a border post in December that killed a member of the national guard.

Later that month, 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.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130506/two-soldiers-wounded-tunisia-jihadist-hunt-0