March 9, 2016 / 3:26 PM / 3 years ago

Tunisia forces clash with militants, 10 killed in border town

Tunisian police officers stand guard near a police station after Monday's attack by Islamist fighters on an army and police barracks in the town of Ben Guerdan, Tunisia, near the Libyan border March 8, 2016. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi

TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisian troops have killed 10 Islamist militants around Ben Guerdan in an operation to clear the town on the Libyan border after at least 55 people died in an Islamic State attack on Monday.

During military raids late on Tuesday and into Wednesday morning around Ben Guerdan, one soldier was also killed. Two militants were tracked to a construction site before they were also killed, the defence and interior ministries said.

Tunisia’s government said around 50 militants launched a dawn attack on army and police posts in Ben Guerdan on Monday, in one of their largest assaults on Tunisia. The army killed 36 attackers and 12 troops and seven civilians also died on Monday.

Prime Minister Habib Essid blamed the attack on Islamic State, which has grown in strength just over the border in Libya, taking advantage of the security chaos there to expand its presence and draw foreign recruits.

The government said it is still investigating whether the militants crossed over from Libya or were already inside Ben Guerdan. Authorities found three arms caches in the city after the attack.

Since its 2011 uprising against autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia has moved towards democracy. But it has also battled a growing Islamist militancy at home and more than 3,000 Tunisians have left to fight for Islamic State and other jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq.

Growing security turmoil in Libya, where two rival governments and armed factions vie for control, has allowed Islamic State to thrive just over Tunisia’s border, and Western governments are helping the country beef up frontier security.

Reporting by Tarek Amara; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Alison Williams

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