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Islamists Will Be Punished for Forced Bar Closures, Tunisia Says

Tunisia’s justice minister vowed reprisals against Salafis who forcibly closed two bars in the country’s west, saying today the ultraconservative Islamists had “crossed all red lines.”

The pledge by Noureddine Bouheri on Express FM radio station came a day after state television quoted witnesses as saying that a large group of Salafis, who adhere to a strict interpretation of Islam, forced the shutdown of the two nightspots in Sidi Bouzid, about 350 kilometers west of the capital.

“The opening they were granted has ended,” Bouheri said, referring to the Salafis who have grown in influence in the country since the uprising that pushed longtime President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali from power. “They have cross all red lines and will be strictly punished.”

While other Islamists have secured a hold on the parliament and the new government, they have resisted the push by more conservative Salafis to impose Islamic law in the country. Prime Minister Hamadi Jbeli had said that his government will not close bars and wine shops, a move that secularists worry could harm the vital tourism industry.

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