File photo: Radical Islamist movement Ansar al-Shariah supporters clash with Tunisian police officers after Tunisia's Interior Ministry banned their annual conference supposed to be held in Kairouan, in Ettadhamen, near Tunis.

Tunis - Three Tunisian soldiers have been wounded in a landmine explosion near the Algerian border where security forces are pursuing Islamist insurgents, the defence ministry said.

The incident, which happened on Saturday, was the latest of several mine blasts in the remote area of Mount Chaambi, the focus of a hunt for Islamist militants since December.

“Three soldiers were wounded in a mine explosion while in a military vehicle during a search operation at Mount Chaambi,” state news agency TAP quoted defence ministry spokesman Colonel Mokhtar Ben Nasr as saying late on Saturday.

He said the soldiers were being treated at the regional hospital in Kasserine, about 250km southwest of the capital Tunis.

Tunisia, which was long one of the most secular states in the Arab world, has been struggling to contain hardline Islamists who have become more active since the overthrow of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011.

The Islamist-led government blamed militant Salafis for the assassination in February of secular opposition politician Chokri Belaid, whose death provoked Tunisia's biggest street protests since Ben Ali's fall.

Salafis have also targeted alcohol outlets in several Tunisian cities, prompting secularists to accuse them of having formed a religious police and threatening the state. - Reuters