By Patrick Markey
Tunisian security forces on Friday killed six people, including five women, after a standoff with an Islamist militant group on the outskirts of Tunis two days before a parliamentary election, authorities said.
The raid on the house in Oued Ellil, west of Tunis, was the latest operation in Tunisia’s crackdown on Islamist militants authorities say threaten the country’s transition to democracy following the 2011 fall of Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.
A number of militants including women had been holed up in a house since Thursday after clashes in which one police officer was killed when troops surrounded the building, according to security officials.
Authorities said one man and five women were killed when troops stormed the house on Friday. Officials said two children were also rescued from the house.
“Our special forces have killed six people from this terrorist group that included five women, who also exchanged fire with our forces,” Interior Ministry spokesman Mohamed Ali Aroui said by telephone.
Details about the raid and what the authorities had suspected the group of doing were still unclear. Another militant and one other woman were arrested, he said.
Tunisia has struggled to subdue hardline Islamists and jihadists opposed to the transition to democracy following the revolt against Ben Ali, and the military has cracked down hard on militants in the run up to Sunday’s election.
Security and economic advances are major concerns for Tunisians voters, who hope the vote will consolidate democracy in the country after a year of political disputes that almost scuttled the transition process.