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Salafists, State Move Closer To Open Conflict in Tunisia

While Tunisian security forces managed to suppress a demonstration of the ultraconservative Islamist group Ansar Al-Sharia on Sunday, the organization continues to grow in numbers and power.
Supporters of Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia clash with riot police at Hai al Tadamon in Tunis May 19, 2013. Supporters of the hardline Islamist group clashed with Tunisian police in two cities on Sunday after the government banned its annual rally and the regional arm of al Qaeda urged it to stand firm against the authorities.  REUTERS/Anis Mili  (TUNISIA - Tags: CIVIL UNREST POLITICS RELIGION) - RTXZSQP

KAIROUAN, Tunisia — The third annual meeting of Ansar Al-Sharia (Supporters of sharia or Islamic law) was supposed to be a huge gathering — organizers had said 40,000 would turn out to support the installation of an Islamic state in Tunisia. With authorities having banned the congress, many feared confrontation, even bloodshed.

Instead, the square in front of the Great Mosque of Kairouan was filled with police running training drills, and the violence — a young man killed in a poor suburb of Tunis — took place 150 km [93 miles] away.

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