Tunisia police clash with Salafists over meeting ban
- 19 May 2013
- From the section Africa
Tunisian police have clashed with hundreds of hardline Islamists after the authorities banned a Salafist group from holding its annual meeting.
At least one protester died in the Tunis suburb of Ettadhamen and several police and protesters were injured.
Police also clashed with protesters in the central city of Kairouan where the Ansar al-Sharia meeting was planned.
The government banned the congress last week, saying it posed a threat to public security.
The group urged its supporters instead to gather for the meeting in Ettadhamen.
Some 500 supporters were reported to have descended on Ettadhamen on Sunday, erecting barricades and hurling stones at police who responded by firing tear gas.
The state news agency said that a 27-year-old man was killed and 11 policemen were injured in the running street battles that followed.
Police eventually forced protesters to retreat into the neighbouring district of Intilaka where sporadic clashes continued into the early evening.
A massive police presence in Kairouan also failed to prevent Salafists from gathering there. Scuffles broke out in the city centre as police used tear gas to disperse the stone-throwing protesters.
Ansar al-Sharia said its spokesman, Seifeddine Rais, had been arrested but it was not immediately clear why.
The government on Friday said it was banning Ansar al-Sharia from gathering in Kairouan because it had "shown disdain for state institutions, incited violence against them and poses a threat to public security".
Ansar al-Sharia used its Facebook page to say it was moving its congress to Ettadhamen.
Last year's congress in Kairouan attracted some 4,000 supporters.
The governing Ennahda party was elected following the overthrow of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011.
It governs in coalition with two non-religious parties and has promised not to ban alcohol or impose the veil.
But Salafists want stricter Islamic laws imposed in Tunisia, and are demanding the introduction of Sharia.