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Tunisian police disperse Islamist protesters

Salafist demonstrators demanded the release of 16 men from the town’s mosque who were arrested Monday

Published: Updated:

Calm has returned to the Rouhia region in Tunisia after police used tear gas to disperse demonstrators protesting against the arrest of a group of Islamic hardliners, the local el-Badil news website reported on Friday.

Around 100 Salafist Islamists gathered in front of a police station in Rouhia in the northern province of Siliana to demand the release of 16 men from the town’s mosque who were arrested on Monday, a security source said.

Interior ministry spokesman Mohamed Ali Aroui told AFP the 16 “radicals” arrested included “three self-declared imams, one of whom had come back from Syria.”

The calm returned after the clashes continued for three days.

Tunisia has seen a rise in jihadist activity since the ouster of long-time dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in a 2011 popular uprising, and the government recently vowed to take control of mosques run by radical Islamists.

Demonstrators in Rouhia on Friday chanted “Rouhia needs development, not police,” before security forces dispersed the protest with tear gas.

A 1988 law in the North African country effectively prohibits sermons, meetings or the distribution of literature in mosques by those who have not been approved by the prime minister.

The religious affairs ministry has also decided to set opening hours for mosques for the first time in three years.

(With AFP)