Thursday, May 23, 2013

Crackdown on radical Islamists tests Tunisia's stability

For the first time since the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011, relations between mainstream Islamists in government and radical Salafist Muslim activists have reached breaking point, sparking deadly clashes in two Tunisian cities.

The rupture between the Ennahda party, the Tunisian arm of the Muslim Brotherhood which governs in coalition with secular parties, and the Ansar al-Sharia movement could have ramifications across north Africa, potentially fuelling armed insurrection in Tunisia and neighboring Algeria.

Clashes between police and Ansar supporters on Sunday in which one person was killed and dozens wounded highlighted the rise of fundamentalist Salafist groups in the nascent North African democracy, empowered by a new atmosphere of freedom.