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Tunisia police tear gas pro-al-Qaeda protest

11 July 2014, 15:38

Sidi Bouzid - Tunisian police fired tear gas overnight to disperse protesters demanding the release of suspected members of an Al-Qaeda-linked group arrested in the restive Sidi Bouzid region, the government said Friday.

Eight people were detained in a "sweeping security operation" in the central province, targeting radical Islamists belonging to the banned Ansar al-Sharia group and wanted by the authorities, the interior ministry said Thursday.

Relatives of those arrested protested overnight in front of a police post in Sidi Bouzid demanding their release, ministry spokesman Mohamed Ali Aroui told AFP.

Some of the protesters shouted "taghout" at the police, a traditional Arabic term for tyrant which is sometimes used by hardline Salafists to refer to police and soldiers.

The security forces then fired tear gas to disperse the demonstrators, who numbered a few dozen.

Since the 2011 revolution, Tunisia has witnessed the rise of jihadist groups that were suppressed under the ousted of regime of strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Much of the deadly violence that has rocked the country since the first Arab Spring uprising has been blamed on Ansar al-Sharia, a hardline Salafist movement which the authorities have linked to Al-Qaeda and implicated in the killing of two opposition politicians last year.

It is also accused of orchestrating an attack on the US embassy and an affiliated school in Tunis in 2012 in which four of the assailants were killed.

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