Raid kills militant suspected of Tunisian assassinations

Tunisian Special Forces member stands outside the house which has militants inside. Police say they tried to capture the militants alive

A suspect in the killings of two prominent Tunisian opposition figures has died in a clash with security forces, the interior ministry says.

Kamel Gadhgadhi was among seven militants killed in the raid on a house in Tunis.

One policeman also died in the operation, which began on Monday afternoon.

Tunisian security forces have fought a long campaign against Islamist militants over the past two years.

Analysis

Kamel Gadhgadhi was one of the most sought-after Islamist militants in the country.

He was accused of having fired the four shots that killed prominent opposition politician Chokri Belaid in broad daylight outside his apartment last year.

The assassination of Mr Belaid, as well as the subsequent killings of assembly member Mohammed Brahmi and several members of the Tunisian security services, contributed to the political crisis that gripped the country in 2013.

Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou from the Islamist Ennahdha party was accused by the opposition and some members of the public of being too lenient in the fight against militant Islamists.

The Tunisian government and security services are now highlighting this operation as a major success in their fight against militants belonging to the radical Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia.

The group has been declared a terrorist organisation by the Tunisian and US governments.

Its leader Seif Allah Ibn Hussein, also known as Abu Ayadh al-Tunisi, is in hiding and has recently been placed by the US government on its global terrorists list because of his alleged involvement in the attack against the US embassy and American school in Tunis in September 2012.

Gadhgadhi was wanted in connection with the killing of prominent left-wing politicians Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi last year.

The assassinations plunged Tunisia into a protracted political crisis, which the country has only now emerged from.

The raid comes a week after Tunisia's parliament adopted a new constitution - its first since the revolution three years ago.

The siege ended in dramatic style on Tuesday afternoon as special units from the National Guard stormed the house.

The Tunisian news agency TAP named the policeman who was killed as Atef Jebri, a 29-year-old corporal in the specialist unit in the National Guard.

One militant was arrested by police, TAP reported.

Police said the men were heavily armed.

"They had suicide bomb belts and explosive material," interior ministry spokesman Mohamed Ali Aroui told Reuters news agency.

More than 20 members of the Tunisian security forces were killed last year during operations against Islamist militants in the west of the country.

Units from the Tunisian National Guard prepare to storm a house containing militants in Tunis Units from the National Guard led the operation, which left seven militants dead
Tunisian soldiers stand guard outside a house where militants were holed up. The raid started on Monday afternoon and lasted almost 24 hours
Tunisian soldiers stand guard outside a house where militants were holed up. The fighting took place in a poor suburb of Tunis

Analysts say politicians hope the new constitution will send out a message of stability after months of deadlock between Islamist and secular parties.

Ennahda, a moderate Islamist party, won the first democratic elections after long-time ruler Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was forced from power in 2011.

But it has faced fierce opposition from secular groups, who have accused it being too close to militant organisations - charges it strongly denies.

Earlier this month, Ennahda Prime Minister Ali Larayedh stepped down and was replaced by Mehdi Jomaa, who heads the newly-appointed caretaker government.

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