Tunisia Salafist group calls for demo
21 May 2013, 18:13
Tunis - Radical Salafist group Ansar al-Sharia, which
Tunisian authorities have branded a terrorist organisation, has called for a
protest in the city of Kairouan on Friday against the arrest of its spokesperson.
"Call to all Muslims to a protest in support of Ansar
al-Sharia's spokesperson Seifeddine Rais, in front of the headquarters of
ruling Islamist party Ennahda near Bab Jalladine" in Kairouan, the group
said on its Facebook page.
Rais was arrested on Sunday in the city south of Tunis where
the Salafist group was to have held a congress the same day that was banned by
The interior ministry has not stated the reason for the spokesperson 's arrest, carried out at dawn as he was jogging in Kairouan.
"The law will be applied when a person fails to respect
the law," was all the ministry's spokesman Mohamed Ali Aroui would say,
contacted by AFP for comment.
In response to the ban, and a heavy deployment of security
forces in Kairouan to prevent them from gathering there, Ansar al-Sharia told
its members to rally instead last Sunday in the poor Tunis suburb of
Ettadhamen, a Salafist stronghold.
Clashes ensued between the police and the hardline
Islamists, in which at least one person was killed and 18 people wounded,
including 15 policemen.
The Salafists, who advocate an ultra-conservative brand of
Sunni Islam, were initially tolerated by the authorities following Tunisia's
January 2011 revolution, even as a wave of violence linked to the extremists
swept the country.
The attacks have targeted art galleries, cultural festivals
and Sufi shrines, and culminated last September in an assault on the US embassy
that left four Islamists dead.
But faced with the threat of al-Qaeda-linked jihadist groups
along its western border, the government has since hardened its stance towards
Ansar al-Sharia, considered the most radical of the extremist groups to have
emerged since the revolution.