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Pre-election violence rocks Tunisia

Tunisian soldier killed near capital, amid reports of other incidents in the country in the run-up to elections
Tunisians burn tyres in the border town of Kasserine over delays in compensation for relatives lost during 2011 uprising (AFP)
Par MEE staff

Two Tunisian National Guard members have been killed in clashes with militants in Tunisia, as a shoot-out continues around a house in an outlying suburb of the capital Tunis.

The first death happened early on Thursday morning, as security services clashed with "terrorists" in Wadi al-Layl in western Tunisia, Interior Ministry spokesman Mohamed Aroui told reporters on Thursday.

Yadi Ashraf Bin Aziza, a 23-year old member of Tunisia’s National Guard, was killed in the clashes some 16 kilometres south-west of central Tunis.

The confrontation began after security services stormed a house which they suspected was being used to shelter militants.

According to eyewitnesses, clashes between the two sides continued to rage in the area, with reports from the ground that the house remained blockaded by Tunisian security services on Thursday afternoon.

Militants are battling Tunisian security forces from the roof of a suburban house, according to a photograph published by local news site Tunis Vision.

Photo purports to show armed militants on the roof of a suburban home (Facebook / Tunis Vision)

According to the site, security forces are now negotiating with the militants for the release of two children being held inside the blockaded house - a source on the ground told MEE that women and children remain trapped inside the house, though neighbouring houses have been evacuated.

In an unconfirmed video circulating on social media, fierce exchanges of fire can be heard in the area, followed by the echoes of an explosion.

Farah Samti, an independent Tunisian journalist, told MEE that reports coming out of Wadi al-Layl remain very unclear – there is little confirmed information as to who is behind the clashes, and no group has as yet claimed responsibility.

“There is a lot of tension – there is a heavy presence of security forces all over the capital.”

In a joint press conference on Thursday afternoon, spokespeople for the Defence and Interior Ministries addressed the violence, which is hitting Tunisia just days before 5.2m registered voters take to the polls on Sunday.

The officials confirmed the death of a member of the National Guard during the confrontation.

Mohammed Ali Aroui, spokesperson for the Interior Ministry, said that violent incidents across Tunisia on Thursday were targeting the upcoming elections and the country’s democratic transition.

However, he said that security forces are in control of the situation.

In an earlier incident, a guard was reported killed in similar clashes between militants and security forces in the southern town of Kebili, a security source told Anadolu Agency on Thursday.

The Interior Ministry spokesperson later told Thursday's press conference that two "terrorists" were arrested at around 3am on Thursday morning - they were armed and, according to the ministry, had planned to attack a government building.

After their arrest, the suspects gave information that led to the house-raid in the Tunis suburb later in the day.

There were reports earlier in the day that a further five soldiers had been injured in a landmine explosion in the far-western town of Sakiet Sidi Youssef, on Tunisia’s border with Algeria, according to local radio station Radio Mosaique FM.

Eye-witnesses told Anadolu Agency that the soldiers had been on a routine patrol when the explosion happened, injuring five of them.

Ministry officials later confirmed the landmine explosion, but denied that it had resulted in any casualties.

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