Tunisian police clash with Islamists over banned rally

May 19, 2013 15:02


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KAIROUAN, Tunisia - Supporters of the hardline Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia clashed with Tunisian police on Sunday after the government banned its annual rally, saying it posed a threat to society.

Ansar al-Sharia, which openly supports al-Qaida, is considered the most radical of the hardline Islamist groups to emerge in Tunisia since a 2011 revolution overthrew secular dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

The annual rally, expected to have drawn tens of thousands of members, was due to have been held in the central city of Kairouan, and supporters there threw stones at police, who fired teargas in response, a Reuters witness said.

Police also prevented the group holding a smaller religious meeting in the Ettadamen district of Tunis on Sunday, prompting clashes with the Salafists, who chanted: "The rule of the tyrant should fall", another Reuters witness said.

Police there fired teargas and shots into the air and to disperse some 500 protesters throwing stones at officers.

Military aircraft were patrolling the skies over the district.

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