TUNIS: Tunisian police killed two Islamist militants near the Algerian border in exchange of fire, the government said Friday, two weeks after Islamists attacked the interior minister's family home, killing four police, in one of their boldest attacks.
Tunisian forces are engaged in a crackdown on the hardline Islamist group Ansar al Sharia. They launched a major assault this year on the Chaambi mountains in the west of the country, close to the Algerian border, where Islamist militants have taken refuge.
"Our forces killed two member of the terrorist group in Jendouba in exchange of fire," Interior Ministry spokesman Ali Aroui said.
Clashes broke out on Thursday night in the northwest of the city of Jendouba, he added, without giving details.
Ansar al Sharia, listed in January as a foreign terrorist organisation by the United States, were one of the hardline Islamist movements to emerge after Tunisia's 2011 "Arab Spring" revolt ousted autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.
Led by a veteran of Afghanistan's conflicts, the group was blamed for storming the U.S. Embassy in Tunis in 2012, and has ties to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
The North African state's political transition has advanced since the uprising. But Tunisian authorities are worried about spillover from neighboring Libya where turmoil has allowed Islamist militants to gain a foothold.