Reuters International

TUNISIA (Reuters) - Tunisian police killed two Islamist militants on Wednesday and seized arms and an explosive belt prepared for suicide attacks during a dawn raid in a central province following an earlier ambush on an army patrol, the interior ministry said.

Al Qaeda-linked Islamists based in the remote mountains bordering Algeria often carry out attacks on military patrols and checkpoints, using nearby towns and villages in Kasserine province for smuggling supplies and hideouts.

"A security operation carried out this morning, in Karma town, was a preventive assault against two terrorists planning attacks in the region," the ministry said in a statement. It said weapons, a suicide belt and other material was seized in the house.

A civilian was also killed in clashes between police and the two suspects during the raid, a security source said.

On Monday, three soldiers were killed and 8 wounded in an ambush by militants using landmines, rockets and gunfire on a military patrol in a remote mountain area near to Kasserine.

The al Qaeda-linked group, Okba Ibn Nafaa - based in the Mount Chaambi range near the Algerian border - has claimed recent attacks on army and police. Tunisian forces have been trying for several years with patrols and air strikes to flush out the small brigade of militants based in the mountains.

Tunisia's armed forces are also trying to track down militants who have returned from fighting with Islamic State in Iraq, Syria and neighbouring Libya. Officials say about 4,000 Tunisians have left to fight for jihadists groups overseas.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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