TUNIS — Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets of Tunis Thursday to condemn extremism amid unease over last month's attack by Salafist Muslims on a cinema showing a film about secularism.
Demonstrators held aloft banners in support of "a modern, independent Tunisia" and "a progressive state" as they marched along Mohamed V avenue in the rally which followed calls by several political groups.
"It's a citizen initiative that aims to show that Tunisia belongs to everyone, that we are witnessing worrying phenomena that must quickly come to an end," said Ahmed Brahim, leader of the left-wing Ettajdid party.
Six members of the Salafist movement were arrested on June 26 after they stormed a cinema and broke its glass doors in a bid to stop the screening of the film "Neither Allah, nor Master" on secularism in Tunisia.
A few days later police arrested 30 people when Salafist demonstrators gathered outside the main courthouse in Tunis to demand their release.
"There is sometimes disinformation surrounding the Islamist threat, but there are also the facts, and we are here to show that we are vigilant," said Meriem Zeghidi, a member of the Lam Echalm collective.
A number of demonstrators voiced concerns over the influence of the Islamist movement Ennahda who they accuse of speaking "a double language".
Led by Rached Ghannouchi, the party was banned under the regime of former Tunisian leader Zine el Abidine Ben Ali and legalised following the January revolution that saw him ousted from power.
Ennahda has been performing well in the polls ahead of the first post-uprising election on October 23.
The Salafist Tahrir party, suspected of being behind the cinema raid and an attack on a lawyer in Tunis, is not authorised.
Elsewhere 200 demonstrators set two police stations ablaze overnight Wednesday in protest at the deaths of two inmates during an attempted jailbreak, the interior ministry said Thursday.
The stations were targeted in the central town of Haidra.
"Two hundred people, most of then drunk, torched two police stations and stole computers from the town hall," said spokesman Mohamed Hichem Moueddeb, who did not report any injuries.
Haidra, a town of 3,000 people, is located in Kasserine province.
Two people were killed and 24 injured when inmates set mattresses ablaze during Tuesday's attempted jailbreak in the town of Kasserine.
"Security forces are not responsible for the deaths in the jail," Moueddeb said.
He added that police in Haidra showed restraint during the overnight attack so as not to jeopardise relations between security forces and the public.
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