Militants killed eight Tunisian soldiers on Monday, the president’s office and state TV said, in what appeared to be one of the biggest attacks on the country’s security forces in decades.
They staged the ambush near the Algerian border at a time of rising political turmoil in Tunisia, which has seen large protests against the moderate Islamist-led government.
The president’s office said only that the eight soldiers had been killed in Mount Chaambi, a remote area where Tunisian troops have been trying to track down Islamist militants since December last year.
It did not name any suspects but Tunisian state TV called the incident a “terrorist attack.”
One resident of the Mount Chaambi area said Islamist militants appeared to be responsible. “They were shot dead and three others were wounded in an ambush. It seems it was set up by Islamist extremists,” said the resident, Hatem al-Salihi.
Opponents of the government have accused it of not being hard enough on radical Islamist groups, pointing to a rise in incidents of violence.
Last week, gunmen suspected of being hardline Salafists shot dead a leftist politician in the second assassination of an opposition leader in six months. Last Friday, a car bomb exploded in Tunis but no one was hurt. It was the first known car bomb to hit the country.