x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Islamists and police clash in Tunis, one dead

Government had warned earlier that police and soldiers had deployed heavily and would use all means to quell any unrest following the clashes sparked by the arrest of a Salafist suspected of assaulting a security official.

TUNIS // Dozens of Islamists, some of them armed, took to the streets of the Tunisian capital yesterday after deadly clashes the previous night, but there was no sign of any additional security as stated by the authorities.

A crowd had gathered near the Ennour Mosque in the Tunis suburb of Manouba, where the interior ministry said an ultraconservative Salafist militant was killed in Tuesday night's clashes.

The government said earlier that police and soldiers had deployed heavily and would use all means to quell any unrest following the clashes sparked by the arrest of a Salafist suspected of assaulting a security official.

But there were no such forces on the visible on the ground, and Islamist militants - some of them wielding knives - said they were ready for more confrontations.

"We will not let yesterday's murder pass without any reaction," said one of them.

Militants attacked two national guard posts in the Tunis suburb of Manouba late Tuesday after police arrested a Salafi suspected of assaulting the head of the area's public security brigade, the interior ministry said.

The attacks were carried out by "a large number of people with radical religious tendencies," ministry spokesman Khaled Tarrouche had said. "The response by the security forces led to the death of an attacker who was hit by a bullet," he said, adding two security force members were also seriously injured.

Another young militant acknowledged on Wednesday that the violence had been sparked by the arrest of Salafis, but stressed that "this is not a reason to shoot a Tunisian in the head".

The security post at Khalid ibn Walid, where the Salafi was killed, was closed yesterday afternoon, although two police cars were parked there.

Since the Tunisian revolution in January last year that toppled former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, conservative Islamists have carried out a number of attacks, including against security forces and on cultural events.

The opposition accuses the government, led by Islamist party Ennahda, of failing to rein in violence by Salafists, a hardline branch of Sunni Islam.

But the authorities have vowed to crack down on Islamist violence in the wake of a Salafist-led attack on the US embassy in September in which four assailants were killed.