World Bulletin / News Desk
At least 14 Tunisian soldiers were killed when gunmen with rocket-propelled grenades attacked two checkpoints in the remote Chaambi mountains, the deadliest militant strike on the north African country's armed forces.
Since April, thousands of Tunisian soldiers have been deployed to the Chaambi range bordering Algeria in an operation to flush out militants seeking refuge there, some since fleeing French intervention in Mali last year.
Militants ambushed the checkpoints on Wednesday night, killing the soldiers as they were breaking their fast for the evening during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the Defence Ministry said. More than 20 soldiers were wounded.
"It was two simultaneous terrorist attacks when they were breaking their fast. Bodies of nine burned after they were hit with an RPG. Five more were shot." said Col. Major Souhail Chmangi, chief of army land forces. "This is open warfare."
Another soldier is missing after the attack, but authorities could not confirm if he had been kidnapped.
Tunisia's stock market dropped 0.33 percent after the news of the deaths.
Militants calling themselves Okba Ibn Nafaa Brigade claimed responsibility on a social media site. That claim could not be verified, but Tunisia says the group is operating in Chaambi and is tied to al Qaeda's north Africa wing.
The mountain range is tough terrain with access into Algeria allowing small groups of fighters plenty of cover. Tunisian forces conducted several raids there and have bombarded caves after eight soldiers were captured and killed last year.
Last Mod: 17 Temmuz 2014, 16:47