First Arab Springer regresses into emergency state as Tunisia succumbs to Islamist sword
Amid a fresh wave of Islamist attacks in Tunisia on Wednesday, President Moncef Marzouki extended the country’s state of emergency through January, in turn continuing special intervention powers for the police and army.
The perceived effort by authorities to improve security in the country after dozens of Islamists, some armed with knives, took to the streets of the Tunisian capital, came as a jolt to the post-revolutionary nation’s progression. This was the latest in a series of attacks by Islamists in recent weeks.
Such extensions of the state of emergency -- which has been in place since January 2011, when a revolution ousted long-time president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali -- had only been made for 30 days at a time since July.
“Marzouki decided Wednesday to extend the state of emergency by three months from November 1, 2012,” said the official TAP news agency.
The extension was proposed by military and security officials, it added.
Authorities had pointed to the shortened extensions as a sign of improving security, but Wednesday’s announcement of a three-month extension will likely raise fears of a deteriorating situation in Tunisia, which is still dealing with instability unleashed by the revolution.
The authorities have vowed to crack down on Islamist violence in the wake of a Salafi-led attack on the US embassy in September in which four assailants were killed.
On Tuesday, Islamists raided two national guard posts in a Tunis suburb, leading to clashes with security forces that killed one attacker, the interior ministry said.
After the clashes, dozens of Islamists, some armed with knives, took to the streets of Tunis on Wednesday.
The government said police and soldiers had deployed heavily and would use all means to quell any unrest, but no such forces were visible on the ground.
Tuesday’s attacks in the Tunis suburb of Manouba came after police arrested a Salafi suspected of assaulting the local security chief.
The opposition accuses the government, led by Islamist party Ennahda, of failing to rein in violence by the Salafis, a hardline branch of Sunni Islam.
Ennahda issued a statement on Wednesday appealing for calm and saying the “state has a right to deal with all threats to social peace.”
What do you think? Has Tunisia taken one step forward but a few too many back to still be considered post-Arab Spring?
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