Police in Tunisia have killed two Islamist militants in possession of a prepared suicide belt in dawn raids on the extremist hotbed of Kasserine.

Reuters reported that the militants, believed to be linked to al-Qaeda, were tracked by police following an earlier ambush on an army patrol.

"A security operation carried out this morning (31 August), in Karma town, was a preventive assault against two terrorists planning attacks in the region," the ministry said in a statement. Weapons, a suicide belt and other material was seized in the house.

One civilian was killed over the course of a shoot-out, an unnamed security source was quoted as saying.

On 29 August, three soldiers were killed and eight wounded in an ambush, as militants attacked with landmines, rockets and gunfire.

A recent wave of attacks in Tunisia has not been claimed by the Islamic State but by the al-Qaeda affiliate Okba Ibn Nafaa – based in the Mount Chaambi range near the Algerian border. The small group of militants has used remote towns and villages in Kasserine to smuggling supplies and establish safe houses.

In January, protests against rising unemployment led to dozens of arrests in a number of Tunisian cities with the worst of the violence taking place in Kesserine.

Skirmishes broke out between police and demonstrators as hundreds breached an overnight curfew. The violence followed a week of unrest across the country, which police said had left 59 officers and 40 protesters injured.

In March, in eastern Tunisia, IS (Isis/Daesh) fighters from Libya attempted to seize the border town of Ben Guerdane and form an IS Emirate in the town. Tunisia has been spared some of the worst the violence which has spread across North Africa and the Middle East since 2011, despite highly publicised attacks on tourists including on Sousse beach in which 30 Britons were murdered and at the Tunis Bardo Museum last year.

Despite being heralded as one of the success stories of the so-called Arab Spring, the country has become one of the largest exporters of fundamental Islamists. Officials believe at least 4,000 Tunisians have left to fight for jihadists groups overseas