An extremist Salafi leader has declared war on the Tunisian Ennahda Party, saying the country's rulers and their allies want elections held on the "ruins and the bodies of the Salafi movement.”
During a television talk show on Thursday night, Nasreddine Aloui called on Tunisian youths to prepare to give their lives in the fight against Ennahda.
Aloui is the new Imam of the al-Nour mosque in the town of Douar Hicher, Manouba Governorate. His predecessor, Khaled Karaoui, died on Thursday after sustaining injuries during a Salafi attack on two police posts earlier in the week.
The call drew sharp criticism from Interior Minister Ali Larayedh and Human Rights Minister Samir Dilou, both members of Ennahda who were also on the program.
"This sort of talk is partly responsible for the bloodshed. You do not realize that your words are like bullets," Larayedh said.
Dilou denounced the “incitement to hatred," saying the radical Salafi was not qualified to be an Imam.
Tunisia has experienced a number of attacks by Salafi extremists on security forces and on cultural events since the ouster of Western-backed dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in the aftermath of the country’s popular revolution in January 2011.
The opposition accuses the government of failing to stem violence by the Sunni extremists, but the authorities have vowed to crack down on the perpetrators behind the attacks.
Tunisians are due to go to the polls in June to elect a new president and parliament.