Tunisia's defense ministry says that three soldiers have been killed in an explosion after a patrol hit anti-tank mines near the Algerian border.

Military spokesman Belhassen Oueslati said that seven soldiers were also wounded when Islamic militants exchanged fire with the patrol soon after Monday's explosion in Mount Semmama, in the western region of Kasserine.

Jihadis linked to al-Qaida in the Islamic Magreb, or AQIM, are known to use this remote, mountainous border region as a base.

Oueslati said that the militants used rocket-propelled grenade launchers and machine guns against the soldiers who were performing paving work in the area.

He added that a suitcase of explosives belonging to the militants was seized by the army and that at least two militants were wounded.