Tunisia’s Islamist government has declared a hardline Salafist group a terrorist organization, intensifying its crackdown on Islamist extremists and distancing itself from their violent activities, the New York Times reports.
Tunisian Prime Minister Ali Larayedh announced the decision on Tuesday after he said he had proof that the group, Ansar al-Sharia, was involved in the assassinations of two opposition politicians earlier this year. Larayedh urged members of the group to quit or face prosecution, reports the Guardian.
Religious groups have flourished in Tunisia since the 2011 revolution. Ansar al-Sharia – the largest and most radical Islamist group in the country – has been blamed for attacks on police officers, soldiers and for an attack last year on the U.S. embassy in Tunis, as well as the assassination of the two politicians. The moderate Islamist Ennahda party, the dominant party in the ruling coalition, has been accused of turning a blind eye to these radical Islamist activities.
While the New York Times says that there are sympathizers within Ennahda for Islamist and jihadist groups, growing public discontent over the faltering economy and the rising radical Islamist movement has forced the Tunisian government to be seen to confront Islamist extremism.
Larayedh said that the current government would first finish drafting the constitution and writing the country’s electoral law by October before handing over the running of the elections to a new government agreed through national dialogue, reports the Guardian.