Tunis, Asharq Al-Awsat—Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki announced three days of national mourning for eight security officers killed by suspected Salafist militants in the country’s central Sidi Bouzidi province. Tunisian security officials, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, said that the death toll is expected to rise in the coming days due to the serious nature of the injured sustained by a number of other security officers in the attack.
“A firefight erupted when a counter-terrorism unit from the Sidi Bouzidi region stormed a hideout of a Salafist group in the town of Sidi Ali Ben Aoun. The incident resulted in the death of two terrorists, while eight security officers were slain, including the counter-terrorist unit’s commanding officer,” the security official informed Asharq Al-Awsat.
Tunisian authorities claim that Ansar Al-Sharia, one of the Islamist militant movements that has emerged in the country following the 2011 uprising, is behind a string of attacks on security forces.
Clashes also took place between the Tunisian military and suspected Salafist militants in the north-western town of Qablat earlier this week. Clashes reportedly lasted three days and resulted in the deaths of 13 “terrorists.”
The recent unrest comes at a time when the embattled Tunis government is in the process of resigning from power, while Tunisia also celebrated the second anniversary of it’s first free elections this week.
Tunisian Prime Minister Ali Larayedh confirmed the government is set to resign after talks with the opposition on appointing a caretaker administration are completed. Larayedh confirmed that his moderate Islamist-led government is committed to the “principle of relinquishing power in line with the different phases envisaged in the roadmap”.
The Prime Minister’s statement came after thousands of anti-government protesters marched through the capital, Tunis, calling for the government’s ouster. The protesters—who numbered around eight thousand according to local reports—marched from Bourguiba Avenue to the government headquarters in Kasbah Square. They included a number of political leaders from the Republican Party, the Tunisian Call Movement, and the Popular Front Alliance.
In other news, the Tunis Baytuna party has announced its withdrawal from the opposition National Salvation Front. Party leader Fathi Warfalli said: “Protests by the National Salvation Front on a day when political dialogue is being launched represent political stupidity.”
Ennahda Movement leaders criticized the anti-government slogans raised by the opposition, saying that this rhetoric did not serve the political dialogue taking place between the government and opposition.