Tunis, 20 Rabiul Awwal 1434 H/1 February 2013 (MINA) – Tunisia has extended for another month the state of emergency in the country imposed after former dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was toppled in a popular uprising in 2011.

       “President Moncef Marzouki has decided, after consulting the heads of government and Constituent Assembly, to extend the state of emergency from February 1 to March 2, 2013,” a statement by the presidential office said on Thursday, according to PressTV report monitored by Mi’raj News Agency (MINA), Friday.

       Marzouki had announced at the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa earlier in the week that the state of emergency would not be renewed at the end of January.

      The state of emergency, which grants special powers of police intervention, was last extended on October 31, 2012.

      Tunisia has been under a state of emergency since January 14, 2011, when Ben Ali fled the country to Saudi Arabia after days of street protests put an end to his 23-year rule.

      Riots and protests broke out in Tunisia after a 26-year-old fruit vendor, identified as Muhammad Bouazizi, set himself on fire when police confiscated his merchandise.

      Ben Ali’s regime was accused of widespread corruption as his relatives controlled much of the business sector in the country.

       The new extension comes in the wake of a terrorist attack on an Algerian gas complex two weeks ago just a few hundred miles south of Tunisia, according to a report by The Daily Star.

      Suspected Islamic extremists have also set fire to more than 40 saints’ tombs, which are considered heretical by conservatives.

Prior to Thursday’s announcement, the state said it was reinforcing security at oil installations in the south.

      Meanwhile, thousands of policemen protested outside the Tunisian prime minister’s office demanding better pay, equipment and protection in the face of a growing security threat from radical Islamists.

      Tunisia’s moderate Islamist government has said Al-Qaeda-linked militants have been accumulating weapons with the aim of creating an Islamic state, two years after the revolution that inspired uprisings across the Arab world.

      Police say they do not have the appropriate resources to deal with the threat from Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and domestic Islamist militants who have easy access to weapons from neighboring Libya.

      Around 3,000 uniformed officers gathered in Kasabah Square in front of the office of Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, chanting slogans demanding higher salaries, more equipment and legal protection if they fire their weapons in the line of duty.

      “This protest aims to bring to the attention of the prime minister all the risks to the security forces … including the threat from Al-Qaeda,” said Montassar Materi, Secretary-General of the Security Forces Syndicate, a union of police officers.

      The ruling Ennahda party that won Tunisia’s first post-Arab Spring election in October 2011 has struggled to restore stability following Ben Ali’s ousting.

      Tunisian Interior Minister Ali Laryed said in December that police had arrested 16 Islamist militants who had been accumulating weapons. Earlier this month, authorities said they had seized a big arms cache in the south of the country and made several arrests.

      This week Tunisia’s state news agency reported that the government had deployed special combat units to its borders with Algeria and Libya to protect its oil and gas installations from potential attacks from Islamist militants. That followed the Al-Qaeda-linked attack at an Algerian gas plant.

      Despite moves to combat militant threats, Tunisia’s secularist groups have accused the Ennahda party of being too soft on extremists. (T/P05/P07/E1)

Mi’raj News Agency (MINA)

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