A member of Tunisia’s security forces was killed and several others wounded in a firefight with gunmen on the outskirts of Tunis Thursday morning, as police forces increased security measures before the National Constituent Assembly elections on Sunday.
According to the New York Times, Tunisian security forces were conducting an anti-terrorism operation against suspected Islamist militants in the suburb of Oued Ellil.
They had surrounded a house where they believed a group of insurgents were preparing an attack to disrupt the elections, Interior Ministry spokesman Mohammed Ali Aroui told local Radio Mosaique. The operation is still ongoing, he added.
Radio Mosaique added a woman and three children were also inside the house. The mother of one of the suspects was brought to the scene by police and she used a megaphone to call on him to let the children go and surrender, the station reported.
Meanwhile, two insurgents were detained in the southern town of Kebili. Weapons were confiscated after a local security guard was killed. Five soldiers were also reported wounded in a mine blast near the western border.
Following almost four years of economic stagnation, a side effect of the Jasmine Revolution, around five million Tunisians are expected to vote for the party they believe can boost employment opportunities. The elections are the first under a new constitution, which was overwhelmingly approved in January.
The race is believed to be between the Islamist Ennahda party that won the country’s first election, and the secular Nidaa Tounes party headed by a former Ben Ali parliament speaker.
Ennahda, which has strong ties to Egypt’s outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, has been somewhat tainted by its relatively poor economic legacy while it governed the country from October 2011 until January 2014.
Following the overthrow of former President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, Islamist insurgents, who oppose the democratic system established in Tunisia and support the creation of an Islamic caliphate, stepped up terrorist attacks on security forces. They frequently lay mines and ambush soldiers patrolling Tunisia’s western border with Algeria.
Members of an Islamist extremist group, Ansar Al-Shariah, assassinated two popular leftist politicians in 2013. Security officials have warned several political leaders in recent weeks about plots to kill them.