Tunisian soldiers gather near the border with Algeria around Mount Chaambi, western Tunisi
Tunisian soldiers gather near the border with Algeria around Mount Chaambi, western Tunisia, in 2013Reuters

Tunisian forces have killed two Islamist militants near the Algerian border, in the Chaambi mountainous region which is believed to have sheltered several al-Qaeda-linked fighters.

The country's defence and interior ministries said in a joint statement that security and army troops killed two militants in the Mezrgue Chams area of Kasserine city, where thousands of troops have been deployed since April in an attempt to curb the Islamist threat. They noted that one of them was likely an Algerian.

Tunisian security forces also seized several weapons, including two Kalashnikov assault rifles and two hand grenades. Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa said troops were on alert across the country with a special focus on border areas monitoring arms smuggling and militant groups.

At least 15 soldiers were killed in attacks on checkpoints in July and a deputy in Tunisia's transitional parliament survived an assassination attempt in Kasserine early in September.

The development came after a new group calling itself the Soldiers of the Caliphate in Algeria split from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and joined the Islamic State (also known as Isis) in Syria and Iraq.

Gouri Abdelmalek, also known as Khaled Abu Suleimane, accused AQIM of "deviating from the true path" and claimed leadership of the new group.

Before Abdelmalek, feared Algerian jihadist Mokhtar Belmokhtar and his group, Those Who Sign with Blood, also vowed allegiance to Isis.