TUNIS (Reuters) - One person was killed when police opened fire during clashes with hardline Salafi Muslims in the Tunisian capital Tunis on Tuesday, a security source said, in the latest sign of religious tensions in the home of the “Arab Spring”.
“One Salafi was killed after security forces fired when Salafists attacked a police station,” a security source said.
Tunisia, whose authoritarian president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, was overthrown in a popular uprising last year, now has an elected Islamist-led government.
The struggle over the role of religion in government and society has since emerged as the most divisive issue in the North African nation, which for decades was considered one of the most secular countries in the Arab world.
“The security forces fired bullets and teargas .. They are pursuing Salafi elements in the neighborhood of Khaled Ibn Al Waleed in the area of Dawar Hicher,” a resident, who gave his name as Hadi, said.
Hundreds of Salafists attacked Tuesday night a police station in Dawar Hicher to protest the arrest of a Salafist accused of attacking a police chief with a knife.
Tension has been growing between Islamists and secularists since the Islamist Ennahda Movement won an election last year.
Ennahdha, a moderate Islamic group, formed a coalition with two non-religious parties and has promised not to ban alcohol, impose the veil or use sharia as the basis of Tunisian law.
It is under pressure from both hardline Salafi Muslims calling for the introduction of Islamic law and secular opposition parties determined to prevent this.
Clashes broke out between alcohol sellers and Salafi Muslims in Tunis on Saturday, wounding a police commander.
Reporting By Tarek Amara; Editing by Michael Roddy and Jason Webb