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Tunisia to close down Salafist-run mosques

Government to shut mosques and radio stations not under its control following reported celebrations over troops' deaths.

Last updated: 20 Jul 2014 14:40
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Fourteen soldiers were killed this week when fighters attacked two army checkpoints [AFP]

Tunisia has launched a crackdown on mosques and radio stations associated with conservative groups following a deadly attack on its soldiers near the Algeria border.

Tunisia's armed forces have been carrying out a campaign to flush out fighters from their remote hideout in the Chaambi mountains.

Some of the armed groups are tied to al-Qaeda and 14 soldiers were killed this week when dozens of fighters with rocket-propelled grenades attacked two army checkpoints in the region.

"The prime minister has decided to close immediately all the mosques that are not under the control of the authorities, and those mosques where there were reported celebrations over the deaths of the soldiers," the office of Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa said in a statement on Sunday.

It said the government would also order the closure of radio stations, websites or television stations that publish messages from armed groups.

More than 60 men linked to fighters had also been arrested since the attacks on the army checkpoints, the statement said.

It did not give any figures for mosques included in the crackdown or name any websites or media, Reuters news agency reported.

Transition to democracy

Tunisia is one of the main sources of fighters travelling from North Africa to join armed groups in Iraq and Syria.

The government is concerned conservative elements have been spreading a violent message at mosques not controlled by the state.

The government has been slowly taking back control of mosques taken over by ultra-conservative Salafist groups since the 2011 uprising.

Tunisia has been praised as a model of transition to democracy in the aftermath of the uprising.

The country has adopted a new constitution, and a transitional government has taken over until elections this year to overcome a crisis between a leading Islamist party and its secular rivals.

But fighters from one hardline group were blamed for killing two secular opposition leaders last year and touching off a political crisis that eventually forced the governing moderate Islamist party to make way for a caretaker administration.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the group's North Africa branch, has claimed attacks in Tunisia in the past, but another armed group, Ansar al-Sharia is also active.

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Source:
Reuters
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