The latest in a string of “Salafist” confrontations occurred during last night’s broadcast of 9 P.M., when Nasreddine Aloui, the Imam of Ennour mosque, called on all “Salafist” youth to prepare to sacrifice themselves in a fight against the ruling party of Ennahdha.
The inflammatory comments began when Aloui accused Ennahdha of cracking down on Salafists in order to garner popularity. He continued by accusing “the whole [Tunisian] security apparatus of being an instrument for the United States government.”
In response, Minister of Human Rights and Transitional Justice Samir Dilou, who was also a guest on the show, accused Aloui of “using his position to incite violence.”
The exchange took a new level of dramatics when Aloui retorted “yes, I am inciting the people.” He then pulled out his kafin (a white burial shroud) and told viewers, “I prepared my kafin, and I invite all young Salafists to prepare their shrouds as well” in a fight against “Ennahda and other political parties that are trying to prepare their electoral campaigns at the expense of the Salafists.”
The increase in tensions began last Saturday when a group of men, identified by security forces as “Salafists,” attacked alcohol sellers in the neighborhood of Dour Hicher. The clashes resulted in the injury of Wissem Ben Slimen, head of the Manouba National Guard unit, and one alcohol vendor.
Relative calm returned to the neighborhood until Tuesday when the police arrested three men that were identified as “Salafist leaders.” The arrests outraged other neighborhood “Islamists” and sparked an attempted siege on the national guard unit. By the end of the attack, two police officers were injured, and two Salafists were killed, including the Muezzin from the neighborhood’s Ennour mosque.
Later that night, unidentified men burned several retail kiosks in front of the Ennour mosque.
On Wednesday, police were on high alert, and local schools remained closed. Palpable tension gripped the neighborhood as pick-up trucks, filled with bearded youths, patrolled the neighborhood streets, but no further incident took place.
The recent series of Islamist attacks prompted President Moncef Marzouki’s Wednesday decision to extend the state of emergency by three months. Security presence in the capital has been heightened since the September 14 attacks on the U.S. embassy and the American School in Tunis.
Farah Samti contributed reporting