Last updated: 25 October, 2014

Tunisia PM says election is target for jihadists

Tunisia’s prime minister warned Saturday of possible jihadist attacks during a landmark election this weekend, as security was tightened for a vote he said offered hope to the entire region.

“We know that this will be a target (for jihadist groups) because it is unique in the region. It brings hope,” Mehdi Jomaa told AFP during an inspection of security forces ahead of Sunday’s poll.

Tunisia’s transition to democracy since the 2011 toppling of longtime strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali “is the alternative to these people and these groups”, Jomaa added.

“They know that the success of (this election) is a threat to them, not only in Tunisia but throughout the region.”

The North African nation is set to deploy tens of thousands of soldiers and police for the parliamentary polls — the first since the uprising three years ago that inspired the Arab Spring revolutions.

Tunisia has been hailed as a beacon of hope compared with other chaos-hit countries like Libya and Egypt.

But its transition has been tested at times by militant attacks and social unrest.

On Friday, Tunisian police killed six suspected militants — five of whom were women — in a raid on a house in the outskirts of the capital.

A policeman was also killed in an earlier firefight with the suspects.

Jomaa said he was confident Sunday’s poll would pass peacefully in spite of the rising tensions.

“We have a security apparatus that is growing in power and effectiveness,” he said. “Yesterday’s operation to me shows that the apparatus is effective and that we need to be even more vigilant.”

Tunisia has lost dozens of security personnel in attacks by jihadist groups since the fall of Ben Ali.

Defence minister Ghazi Jeribi called for Tunisians to turn out and vote and “not to be afraid of the threat of terrorists who aim to stop this election”.

The ministers inspected security measures at a polling area in Nabeul, east of Tunis, along with top election official Chafik Sarsar.

“It’s important to see the latest security measures in place for the big day, the moment of truth,” Sarsar told AFP, adding that the results of the vote would be announced early Monday.

The election pits the Islamist Ennahda party — which was in power for two years after the revolution — against secular opponent Nidaa Tounes as well as a host of leftist and Islamist groups.

Tunisia holds a presidential election on November 23.