Tunisian police arrest 10 Islamists following violent clashes in Kef

Published December 1st, 2013 - 06:22 GMT
Tunisian protestors hurled stones at security officials late last week, calling for the ruling Islamist party Ennahda's resignation (Fethi Balaid/AFP)
Tunisian protestors hurled stones at security officials late last week, calling for the ruling Islamist party Ennahda's resignation (Fethi Balaid/AFP)

Tunisia police arrested on Saturday ten suspected members of the banned Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia in the northeast of the country leading to clashes with their supporters, the interior ministry said.

The arrests took place at dawn in the town of Kef and hours later clashes erupted when supporters of the suspects hurled stones at a police station and set tires ablaze in the area, Agence France-Presse reported.

Police retaliated by firing tear gas to disperse the assailants, the ministry said without giving any casualty details, AFP reported.

Ansar al-Sharia is Tunisia’s main Salafist movement which the authorities have designated a “terrorist organization” with ties to al-Qaeda.

Since the ouster of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali following the 2011 uprising, Tunisia has been rocked by violence blamed on radical Islamist groups who had been suppressed under the former dictator.

Islamists have been blamed for the assassinations this year of two opposition MPs and the murders have plunged the country into a protracted political crisis.

The opposition blames the government for failing to rein in the jihadists and has demanded the resignation of the cabinet which is headed by the moderate Islamist party Ennahda.

Ansar al-Sharia is led by Abu Iyadh, a former Al-Qaeda fighter in Afghanistan.

The group is accused of orchestrating a deadly attack on the US embassy in Tunis in September 2012, but it has repeatedly denied its involvement in that or other attacks.

Around 30 soldiers and policemen have been killed in clashes with jihadists this year, mostly in the Chaambi mountain region along the Algerian border where security forces have been tracking down Qaeda-linked militants.

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