Salafist attacks on police raise fears in Tunisia
By Houda Trabelsi for Magharebia in Tunis – 31/10/12
Deadly clashes with salafists outside Tunis last night prompted authorities to boost security in the capital, the Tunisian Interior Ministry said on Wednesday (October 31st).
"There has been a reinforcement of security, of the national guard, of the army to prevent any retaliation" by armed salafists, AFP quoted interior ministry spokesperson Khaled Tarrouche as saying.
Security forces would use "all the tools allowed by law" in the event of any further violence, he warned, suggesting that they could fire live rounds if confronted.
At least one salafist was killed in the fighting Tuesday night. The clash erupted when dozens of salafists, armed with swords and knives, stormed two police stations in the Tunis suburbs of Douar Hicher and Khalid Ibn Walid. Three National Guard officers were also reportedly wounded.
The outbreak of violence follows the arrest of a 22-year-old salafist for allegedly attacking a police commander at the week-end. The suspect was captured in Jendouba while attempting to flee to Algeria, Tunisie Numerique reported. He had shaved his head and beard and was armed with tear gas and a knife.
Wissem Ben Slimane, the security chief in Manouba, suffered a knife attack on Saturday while attempting to break up clashes between radical Islamists and alcohol sellers in Douar Hicher. He later underwent emergency surgery at the National Institute of Neurology.
Hichem Ben Slimane, the victim's brother, told reporters that the assault "was perpetrated by a salafist called 'Saddam' who was masked".
"He hit my brother on the head when he was performing his work with a group of agents to regulate a security incident in the region involving clashes between wholesalers of wine and a group of salafists," he added.
The National Union for Security Forces called on its members to wear a red badge for three days to condemn the violence sustained by Ben Slimane.
In a statement on Sunday, the syndicate expressed "indignation due to the multiple attacks sustained by security forces", adding that "the absence of interest on the part of supervisory authorities in responding to requests and numerous warnings has led to the continuation of systematic acts of violence towards security forces".
The statement also called on the interior ministry and the Constituent Assembly to develop needed legislation aimed at protecting security agents when performing their duties.
For its part, the interior ministry confirmed in a statement issued on Monday that it intended "to keep track of all the abuses perpetrated by groups that want to replace the state and impose their own laws."
"No one is immune before the law, and the Ministry of Interior will spare no effort to pursue those who attack officers and agents of national security and bring them to justice," the statement stressed.
Although attacks attributed to salafists are not new to Tunisians, this particular incident left a state of uncertainty and panic among citizens.
Mostapha Ouji, 33-years-old, said, "This incident is serious and if the supervisory ministry stays quiet, then violence against security agents will worsen. Thus citizen safety will be threatened."
"I am surprised that the security agents were not authorised to use their weapons in such circumstances, to defend themselves and thus catch the criminals," Ouji added.
"When I heard about the incident, I feared for the future of Tunisia," commented Dorra Mouaoui, 43. "The most dangerous scenario that could happen is to allow these salafists to impose their system by force."
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