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Published: Saturday March 15, 2014 MYT 2:10:02 AM
Updated: Saturday March 15, 2014 MYT 2:11:25 AM

Algerian troops kill seven militants near Tunisian frontier

ALGIERS (Reuters) - Algerian troops have killed seven armed militants who crossed the border from neighbouring Tunisia, the state news agency APS reported on Friday.

There has been less militant violence in Algeria since the North African country ended its 1990s war with Islamists that killed 200,000 people. But chaos in neighbouring Libya has allowed militants to strengthen their presence in the Maghreb.

APS said the militants had crossed the border in a vehicle and had tried to flee to the Boudjelal mountain area, but there were surrounded and killed by Algerian troops near Tebessa, around 300 miles (480 km) east of Algiers.

Islamist militants have used the Chambi mountains across the border in Tunisia as a refuge in the past.

The risk from Islamist violence in Algeria was highlighted by the assault on the Amenas gas plant near the desert border with Libya just over a year ago. Forty oil workers were killed in the attack, all but one of them foreigners.

Tunisia is also battling militants from the hardline group Ansar al-Sharia, one of the Islamist movements to emerge since the country's 2011 uprising. The group was this year listed as a foreign terrorist organisation by Washington.

Turmoil and a weak military in Libya have allowed militants linked to al Qaeda to gain a foothold in the remote deserts there, some after fleeing from the French military intervention in Mali launched at the start of last year.

(Reporting by Hamid Ould Ahmed; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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