1 dead as Tunisian forces block event

Riot police clashed with supporters of the Islamist group Ansar al-Shariah in Tunis on Sunday.
Anis Mili/Reuters
Riot police clashed with supporters of the Islamist group Ansar al-Shariah in Tunis on Sunday.

KAIROUAN, Tunisia — Around 11,000 police officers and soldiers blocked an annual conference Sunday at Tunisia’s main religious center by a radical Islamist movement that has been implicated in attacks across the country, prompting clashes with angry youths that resulted in one death.

Security checkpoints were in place and patrols conducted throughout the central city of Kairouan after authorities declared the conference to be held there by the ultraconservative Muslim group Ansar al-Shariah a threat ‘‘to security and public order.’’

Police clashed with stone-throwing young men in the center of the town and fired tear gas to disperse them. Kairouan hospital reported that five civilians and four police officers were injured.


Far more serious, however, was a confrontation between police and supporters of the group in the low-income suburb of Ettadamon, north of the capital, Tunis. Young men threw stones and burned tires, and security forces responded with tear gas and warning shots. The state news agency reported that a 27-year-old was killed in the clashes and 11 policemen injured.

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The leader of Ansar al-Shariah, Seifallah Ben Hassine, is wanted for his involvement in a mob attack on the US Embassy in September, and his followers have been accused of attacking art galleries, police stations, and cinemas.

The robust response to the conference by security forces is unprecedented since the 2011 overthrow of President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, who presided over a strong police state.

Associated Press