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Tunisia PM makes sweeping cabinet reshuffle

The foreign and interior ministers were among those replaced in the shake-up, according to an official list
Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid giving a speech to mark the 100th day of his government in June 2015 (AFP)

Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid announced a major cabinet reshuffle on Wednesday evening, with his government grappling with a growing militant threat, feeble economy and internal party divisions. 

The foreign and interior ministers were among those replaced in the shake-up, according to an official list.

The reshuffle comes a week before Tunisia will mark the fifth anniversary of the overthrow of longtime President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011. 

The interior ministry had already seen several personnel changes at lower levels following a suicide attack in the capital in November that killed 12 presidential guards. 

The authorities imposed, and later extended, a nationwide state of emergency after the attack, which was claimed by the Islamic State group. 

Tunisia has also been hard-hit by political divisions within the ruling Nidaa Tounes party. In November, 31 MPs resigned, leaving Nidaa Tounes without a majority in parliament. In December, the party's general secretary Mohsen Marzouq also quit and later announced that he would form a rival party, saying that Nidaa Tounes was "finished". 

Nidaa Tounes was voted into power in October 2014 in elections generally dubbed free and fair. It was formed by Mohamed Beji Caid Essebsi, a former primer under Ben Ali who urged Tunisians to unite to kick out the rival Ennahda Party seen as a moderate Islamist party that came to dominate power after the revolution.  

Tunisia, the cradle of the Arab Spring uprisings, has seen a spike in violence in recent years. 

Thousands of young Tunisians are believed to have joined groups like IS and have gone to fight in places like Syria, Iraq and Libya. 

Two other attacks last year claimed by IS on the National Bardo Museum in Tunis and on a hotel near the Mediterranean resort of Sousse killed a total of 60 people, all but one of them foreign tourists. The attacks have crippled the country's key tourism industry.