Two Tunisia police shot, wounded in flashpoint town

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Two Tunisian police were wounded in an exchange of gunfire with presumed Salafists on Thursday in Sidi Bouzid, the cradle of the country’s uprising two years ago, a medical source said.

The shooting took place when police after a chase cornered four armed men in a mosque in the center of the town, which is a stronghold of the ultra-conservative Muslim group blamed for unrest around the country.

An interior ministry spokesman said only one policeman had been hurt.

An AFP correspondent said that earlier, the four men had refused to stop their car at a checkpoint in Sabbala, a town north of Sidi Bouzid. Instead, they forced their way through, exchanging fire with police in an incident that caused no casualties.

He said police and soldiers were on Thursday night surrounding Sidi Bouzid’s Rahma Mosque.

In a related story, Tunisia’s Interior Ministry says large quantities of weapons and explosives have been seized in a town near the capital Tunis.

Dozens of Kalashnikov assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, explosives and ammunition were seized in Mnihla around 15 kilometers (10 miles) outside the capital late Wednesday night.

Thursday’s statement said the operation was carried out by the national guard backed by a commando unit.

Last month another weapons cache was found in the southern city of Medenine, near the Libyan border.

Tunisia has not been exposed to the widespread militant violence found in neighboring Algeria and Libya, but there have been some incidents.

Police also announced the arrest of 13 suspects in the low-income Douar Hicher neighborhood of Tunis, the site of clashes between police and Salafists.