A young protester has died and at least 15 policemen injured, after Tunisian security forces clashed with Salafis. Police fired teargas and shots into the air to disperse the stone-throwing crowd, which gathered despite a ban.
Some 200 people have been arrested in the weekend clashes, Prime Minister Ali Larayedh said in remarks published on Monday.
Violence broke out in the central city of Kairouan and in the capital, Tunis. Clashes in the Tunis suburb of Ettadhamen erupted between nearly 500 supporters of Ansar al-Sharia and law enforcement as protesters started throwing stones.
The Salafis were chanting, “The rule of the tyrant should fall,” according to Reuters.
Teargas was also reportedly used in Kairouan, as Salafis threw stones at the police from behind the wall of a mosque.
Group’s spokesman Seifeddine Rais, the group’s spokesman, was arrested at dawn on Sunday as he went jogging in front of police, according to a police source, who described his behavior as a“provocation,” Al Jazeera reported.
According to local reports a young man, identified as a supporter of Islamist group, died in the street clashes in Ettadhamen.
Some 11 policemen and four protesters have been reported wounded in clashes.
The annual rally was expected to have drawn up more than 40,000 people to attend this year’s annual congress.
The recent protest that turned violent comes two days after the government banned the Islamist group from holding its annual congress in the central city of Kairouan.
On Friday the government ruled the group had “shown disdain for state institutions” and was “a threat to public security”.
“The congress is postponed to another date undecided yet,” Habib Al-Lawz, a leader from the ruling Ennahda party, told a local Radio station on Saturday.
Despite the ban, the group vowed the meeting would take place, but said they would gather at a different location, in an impoverished suburb of Tunis instead of Kairouan, where security forces were deployed in strength on Saturday.
On its Facebook page, Ansar al-Sharia notified its supporters the congress has been moved to Ettadhamen.
Earlier, the movement told to stay away from Kairouan.
“To the attention of our brothers who are coming to Kairouan from other regions… the head of Ansar al-Sharia informs you of the need to cancel all these trips given the seriousness of the security situation,” the group said on its website.
As a precaution, there was a heavy police presence at tollbooths along the main highway from the capital to the central city of Kairouan.
Police stopped private minibuses traveling between Tunisian towns, with special attention paid to men with beards, as sported by Salafis.
Police checkpoints have been set up around the city with special units monitoring the square facing the mosque which is the venue for the congress. Helicopters have been also hovering over the area.
“We have taken all measures to ensure the meeting does not go ahead… We will not allow those coming for this congress to enter the city,” AFP quoted an unmanned policeman as saying.
Around 11,000 police officers and soldiers blocked an annual conference in Kairouan.