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Militants ambush Tunisian soldiers near Algerian border, kill 3

Tunisian soldiers patrol as they search for attackers still at large in the outskirts of Ben Guerdane, southern Tunisia, March 8, 2016. ©AP

A powerful landmine explosion has claimed the lives of at least three soldiers in Western Tunisia on the same day Prime Minister Youssef Chahed's unity government took office in the North African country. 

According the Tunisian Defense Ministry, the soldiers were killed in a bomb blast in the remote Mount Sammama area near the Algerian border.

Defense Ministry spokesman Belhassen Oueslati said that "terrorist elements launched an attack with a large quantity of explosives on a military patrol providing security for workers" tarring a road. 

The spokesman added that seven soldiers were also wounded in the fatal attack.

He also noted that  two militants were believed to have been killed by army fire. 

An army spokesman said that the militants also opened fire on soldiers with rifles and rocket propelled grenades after their patrol hit an anti-tank landmine. 

 No group has claimed responsibility for the attack yet. 

Military officials say they’ve been hunting down militants in the area for months but have not been able to completely dislodge them from the rugged area. 

Tunisia has been hit by a number of deadly attacks by Takfiri terrorists in the past couple of years.

New government sworn in

The fresh wave of violence came on the same day a new unity government took office in Tunisia with security among its top priorities. 

Chahed formally took office at a ceremony in Carthage just outside Tunis during which outgoing premier Habib Essid, 67, handed over power. 

"I hope this government will last," Essid said, adding, "The worst thing for this country is the government changing ever year or year and a half." 

Chahed, who becomes the seventh prime minister of Tunisia in less than six years, pledged to overcome challenges facing the country.  

"The situation is complicated, but we're optimistic. We will shoulder our responsibilities." Chahed stressed. "Don't worry about Tunisia and its future," he said in response to his predecessor.

Tunisia's new Prime Minister Youssef Chahed (R) and outgoing premier Habib Essid hold documents during the handing-over ceremony in Carthage, on the outskirts of the capital Tunis on August 29, 2016. (AFP photo)

The new premier and members of his cabinet were sworn in following an approval from parliament on Saturday. In a speech before the parliamentary vote, Chahed promised that his government will take tough decisions to overcome economic difficulties and create jobs.

His new cabinet of 26 ministers and 14 ministers of state includes members from all sides of the political spectrum with eight women and 14 young ministers. 

Chahed was named as the Tunisian premier after Essid was dismissed in a no-confidence vote last month. 

Tunisia has been plagued by violence since the 2011 uprising that ousted the country’s long-time dictator, Zine el Abidine Ben Ali. 

Since November 2015, the country has been in a state of emergency in the wake of deadly attacks, including on the Bardo National Museum in Tunis and a seaside resort in Sousse, which were claimed by the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group. 

The African state is also struggling with problems such as lower tourism revenues, poverty, unemployment, corruption and regional disparities. Labor strikes and protests have also hurt Tunisia's phosphate industry.

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