At least 162 people have been arrested after days of rioting in several locations across the country by ultra-conservative Islamists known as Salafis, Tunisian officials told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
A young Tunisian has died of wounds during the protest pitting Salafis against police in the eastern city of Sousse, a hospital official said Wednesday.
Fehmi el-Aouini, 22, sustained a bullet wound to the head during the violence on Tuesday and became the first fatality in the three-day wave of unrest triggered by an art exhibit deemed offensive to Islam.
Nighttime curfews have also been imposed around the capital, as well as the cities of Sousse, Monastir, Jendouba and Ben Guerdane.
Salafis on Sunday attacked an art exhibition they deemed insulting to Islam in the Tunis suburb of La Marsa. On Monday they attacked police stations, burning several.
The art gallery has since been closed by the government, which has objected to the content.
Government spokesman Samir Dilou said in a press conference late Tuesday that 62 police were wounded in the clashes.
Tunisia has witnessed an upsurge of Salafi-inspired violence that in recent months have become violent, attacking police and judicial institutions.
Tunisia’s top authorities Wednesday condemned both “extremist groups that threaten freedoms” and “attacks on religion” after rioting blamed on hardline Islamists over an art exhibition.
A joint statement by the heads of the state, the constituent assembly and the government followed the most serious unrest since the Arab Spring, in which one person was killed and around 100 injured, and 165 arrested.
The statement issued by Moncef Marzouki, Mustapha Ben Jaafar and Hamadi Jebali respectively warned against “plans by provocateurs and extremists to perturb authority and sow terror.”
“Extremist groups are threatening freedoms, claim the right to substitute themselves for state institutions and try to bring places of worship under their control,” it charged.
“These groups are infiltrated by criminals ... the ghosts of the ousted regime are trying to block the process of transition.”
At the same time, however, “attacks on religion do not stem from freedom of expression (but) aims to provoke and sow discord as well as take advantage of a sensitive situation to stoke tension,” the statement said.