Tunisia arrests Islamist militants after bomb mishap

Tunisia’s interior ministry said eight members of Ansar al-Sharia were attempting to plan an attack on the commercial city of Sfax

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A group of Islamist militants have been arrested by Tunisian police after they accidentally exploded a bomb they were manufacturing as part of a planned attack on the country’s commercial city of Sfax, Reuters reported the government as saying on Sunday.

The eight suspected members, who belonged to the militant group of Ansar al-Sharia, were arrested as part of a raid in Sfax, a Mediterranean port city around 170 miles (270 km) southeast of the capital Tunis, the interior ministry said late Saturday.

Two of those arrested were wounded in the bomb blast while handling the explosive, the ministry said in a statement.

Ansar al-Sharia, listed as a foreign terrorist organization by the United States, was one of the most hardline movements calling for an Islamic state to emerge since Tunisia’s 2011 uprising ousted autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.

With an economy heavily reliant on foreign tourism, Tunisia has been cracking down on Islamist militants that it views as a key challenge on its path to full democracy.

On Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama praised Tunisia as the poster child of the Arab Spring as he unveiled $500 million in new assistance to help revive the North Africa nation’s faltering economy.

One of the Arab world’s most secular states, Tunisia has adopted a new constitution and a caretaker government has taken over as a way to ease tensions between a leading Islamist party and secular opponents until elections due later this year.

(With Reuters)

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