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Tunisia arrests two over coronavirus 'cough plot' against police

North African country has been under state of emergency since 2015 following string of attacks by armed groups
Tunisia's interior ministry says displaying symptoms of virus was told to cough, sneeze and spit when he visited police station (AFP/File photo)

Authorities in Tunisia arrested two men, including a suspected member of an armed group, in an alleged plot to infect security forces with the coronavirus.

The Tunisian interior ministry said in a statement on Thursday that the terrorist suspect instructed the other man, who was displaying symptoms of the virus, to deliberately cough, sneeze and spit when he visited a police station on a court order.

Tests were being carried out to determine if the man was infected with the coronavirus, the ministry said.

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National Guard spokesman Houssem Eddine Jebabil told reporters that the two men were arrested in Kebili, an impoverished city in Tunisia's central region. 

Tunisia, which has registered hundreds of coronavirus infections and several dozen deaths, has been under a state of emergency since 2015 following a string of attacks against security forces.

In 2015, the local chapter of the Islamic State (IS) group attacked Tunis's Bardo Museum, a beach resort in Sousse and presidential guards in the capital. Dozens were killed, mostly foreign tourists.

This March, two men on a motorbike carried out a suicide bombing near the US embassy in the Tunisian capital of Tunis, killing a police officer and wounding five others.

In a bid to limit the spread of the coronavirus, Tunisian President Kais Saied granted a special pardon to 1,420 inmates last month to try and reduce infection rates among the country's prison population.

The North African country has imposed strict measures to fight the spread of Covid-19, including a 12-hour nightly curfew and deploying remote-controlled police vehicles, urging people to stay home.