Tunis - Tunisian police have arrested a group of Islamist militants who accidentally exploded a bomb they were manufacturing as part of a planned attack on the country's commercial city of Sfax, the government said on Sunday.

The interior ministry said police had arrested eight suspected members of the militant group Ansar al-Sharia late on Saturday as part of a raid in Sfax, a Mediterranean port city around 270km south-east of the capital Tunis.

Two of those arrested were wounded in the bomb blast while handling the explosive, the ministry said in a statement.

Ansar al Sharia, listed as a foreign terrorist organisation by the United States, was one of the most hardline movements calling for an Islamic state to emerge since Tunisia's 2011 uprising ousted autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.

With an economy heavily reliant on foreign tourism, Tunisia has been cracking down on Islamist militants that it views as a key challenge on its path to full democracy.

One of the Arab world's most secular states, Tunisia has adopted a new constitution and a caretaker government has taken over as a way to ease tensions between a leading Islamist party and secular opponents until elections due later this year. - Reuters