by Antoine Lambroschini
by Antoine Lambroschini
TUNIS, Nov 2, 2012 (AFP)
Tunisian troops and police deployed ahead of the main Muslim weekly prayers outside a flashpoint suburb of the capital on
Friday, just days after a deadly attack by Salafist militants on national guards posts.
An AFP reporter saw army, police and national guard vehicles and several dozen men on roads leading to the Douar Hicher quarter of Manouba, but they had not entered the area, which was calm.
“These units have been deployed, just in case,” a security official said. Salafists, followers of a hardline branch of Sunni Islam, have used Friday prayers in the past to rally their faithful and carry out attacks.
In a September assault on the US embassy, four of the assailants were killed.
On Thursday night, a Salafist imam declared war on Tunisia’s Islamist ruling party during a television talk show, with the interior minister countering that such talk was responsible for blood being shed.
“I am going to make war on these people because the interior minister and the leaders of Ennahda have chosen the United States as their god — it is the Americans who are writing the laws and the new constitution,” Nasreddine Aloui said in an appearance by video link on Ettounsiya television.
He urged the country’s youth to prepare their burial shrouds to fight against Ennahda, brandishing a white cloth himself and saying Ennahda and other parties want elections held on the “ruins and the bodies of the Salafist movement.”
Aloui has taken over as the new imam of the Ennour mosque in the Tunis suburb of Manouba, although he has not been sanctioned by the state, which holds the right to make appointments.
His predecessor died on Thursday of wounds sustained when he took part in the attack on two police national guard posts earlier this week.
Interior Minister Ali Larayedh and Human Rights Minister Samir Dilou, both members of Ennahda, were on the programme and replied sharply.
“This sort of talk is partly responsible for the bloodshed. You do not realise that your words are like bullets,” Larayedh said.
Dilou said: “You are not worthy to be an imam. This talk is an incitement to hatred.”
Religious Affairs Minister Nourredine el-Khadmi told a press conference on Friday that around 100 mosques in Tunisia were under the full control of Salafists. He rejected what he said was Aloui’s “call to violence.”
Meanwhile, Abu Iyed, speaking for the Salafist group Ansar al-Sharia (Partisans of Islamic Law), sought to defuse the controversy in radio remarks, saying Tunisia is not the place for holy war.
“Tunisia is a country for preaching and not jihad,” Abu Iyed said on Express-FM radio, while also arguing that the “Salafist movement is the victim of systematic repression.”
He called for understanding of the congregation of the Ennour mosque, saying it had suffered two martyrdoms.
Aloui’s predecessor, Khaled Karaoui, died on Thursday, after being wounded when he and other militants attacked the national guard posts in Manouba following the arrest of a Salafist on suspicion of assaulting the head of the area’s public security brigade.
During the clashes, one of the attackers was killed and two policemen wounded.
Since the Tunisian revolution that ousted veteran president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011, radical Islamists have carried out a number of attacks, including against security forces and on cultural events.
The opposition accuses the government of failing to rein in violence by Salafists, a hardline branch of Sunni Islam.
But the authorities have vowed to crack down on Islamist violence in the wake of the September attack on the US mission.