TUNIS, July 17 (Reuters) - At least 14 Tunisian troops were killed when militants attacked checkpoints in the remote Chaambi mountains, the ministry of defense said on Thursday.
The attacks on Wednesday evening were the deadliest yet carried out by militants on Tunisia's armed forces, who have been trying to flush out Islamist fighters hiding out in the mountain range near Algeria's border.
A defense ministry spokesman said 14 troops were killed, and another 20 wounded when the militants attacked with rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.
The North African country has struggled with the rise of radical Islamist militants since the 2011 popular revolt ended the rule of autocrat Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and began Tunisia's fragile steps to democracy.
Armed Islamist militants have clashed with security forces occasionally since the uprising, but Wednesday's attacks were the worst on Tunisia's military.
Since April, thousands of troops have been deployed to the Chaambi mountains to try to control groups of militants taking refuge there. (Reporting by Tarek Amara, writing by Patrick Markey, editing by Jeremy Gaunt)