Islamist groups call off protests planned for Friday
Several Tunisian religious groups, including a hardline Islamist party, called off Thursday planned demonstrations that could have led to violent showdowns with security forces. Islamist groups including fundamentalist Salafists had planned on rallying Friday but the government banned the gatherings, which would have come amid the worst unrest since the 2011 uprising that gave birth to the Arab Spring.
The Ansar al-Sharia movement, Tunisia's most radical Islamist movement, headed by former jihadist Abou Iyadh, was one group that had called for nationwide protests.
But it released a message on its Facebook page late Thursday saying it was calling these off.
"We call on all our brothers to understand this decision and not be carried away by their emotions," the message said.
It remained to be seen if other groups would still turn out in any great numbers.
The north African country has been rocked by three days of violence that left one dead and dozens wounded after ultra-conservative Salafists took issue with works at an art exhibition they deemed offensive to Islam.
Hardline Islamists have been growing more confident since an uprising toppled longtime president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011. That movement was the first in what became known as the Arab Spring uprisings that saw several other autocratic leaders oustered. (...)