AT least 14 Tunisian troops have been killed after gunmen attacked checkpoints in the remote Chaambi mountains, the deadliest militant strike on the North African country's armed forces.

Since April, thousands of Tunisian soldiers have been deployed to the Chaambi range bordering Algeria in an operation to flush out al Qaeda-linked militants seeking refuge there, some since fleeing French intervention in Mali last year.

During the latest attack on Wednesday night, militants with rocket-propelled grenades and rifles ambushed checkpoints the military had set up to try to take control of the Chaambi region.

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The gunmen attacked as the soldiers were breaking their fast for the evening during Ramadan and more than 20 soldiers were wounded.

Tunisia has struggled with the rise of radical Islamist militants since a 2011 popular revolt ended the rule of autocrat Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and began its fragile steps towards democracy in the country.