Monday, August 5, 2013

Tunisia: mass demonstrations and military action against 'terrorists'

Tunisian security forces operating near Chaambi Mountain, June 2012. Image courtesy Maghrebia via Wikimedia Commons
Tunisian troops in action near the Chaambi mountains.

Tunisia is facing a what may be the deepest crisis since the toppling of former president Ben Ali, two years ago.The opposition has accused the ruling party Ennahda, which is the main party in the leading coalition,  of being linked to or tolerating Islamist militant attacks.Demonstrations swept Tunisia after the assassination of Mohamed Brahmi, a member of the Arab nationalist Popular Front party, on July 25, a killing that followed the assassination of party leader Chokri Belaid in February.Ennahda has denied the accusations. Tens of thousands of Tunisians came out in a show of force for the ruling Ennahda party on Saturday. "No to coups, yes to elections!" they shouted, in one of the biggest demonstrations since the 2011 revolt.The opposition pledged to rally even more supporters in its own demonstrations. It held rallies on Sunday and it is planning a mass protest on Wednesday to mark the six-month anniversary of Belaid's assassination.
Prime Minister Ali Larayedh told journalists on Sunday a man suspected of ties to the Belaid assassination was captured by security forces. He called on militants being hunted by security forces to turn themselves in. There is no future in terrorism," he said, speaking outside the Interior Ministry, where he had been meeting officials.
Reuters reported that two soldiers were killed in a blast near the Algerian border on Sunday. This happened after the Tunisian army started early on Friday air and artillery strikes in the Mount Chaambi area, where on Monday eight soldiers had been killed in an ambush. The bombing will continue until all fighters are driven from the area, Ministry of Defense spokesperson Tawfik Rahmouni said in an interview Friday with the radio station Mosaique FM. He said that the military was assisted in its operations by Algerian intelligence. State Tataouin radio and other local media reported on Sunday that Tunisian forces had killed 10 militants in Chaambi and arrested three others. I
Also on Friday morning, the Anti-Terrorism Unit, a specialized division of the Tunisian police, arrested twelve “religious extremists” inside the Ettawba mosque in Kasserine, according to Mosaique FM.
In the capital Tunis, Interior Ministry official Lotfi Hidouri said police raided a house where militants were hiding weapons in the Kabaria district. "The police killed a terrorist and arrested five others," he said. Witnesses said police also arrested several hardline Salafists suspected of ties to militant groups in the town of Sbitla, north of the capital. One witness said dozens of Salafists then gathered at the police headquarters in Sbitla to protest against the arrests and that the police fired in the air to disperse them.

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