Tunisia policeman killed in pre-election clash with Islamists

Tunisian soldiers walk with their weapons as they surround a house in Oued Ellil, west of Tunis following heavy exchanges of gunfire in Tunis October 23, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Anis Mili

(Reuters) – A Tunisian policeman was killed and another wounded on Thursday when security forces clashed with Islamist militants on the outskirts of Tunis, three days before parliamentary elections which voters hope will help them advance toward full democracy.

Police negotiators in the suburb Oued Ellil to the west of Tunis were trying to persuade militants to give themselves up after the house they were in was surrounded following heavy exchanges of gunfire, officials and a Reuters witness said.

Heavily armed security forces used tear gas and stun grenades to try to force at least two suspected militants out of the house, in which officials said several women and children were being held.

“We’ve called on them to let the woman and children out, but they refused … they are family members,” interior ministry spokesman Mohammed Ali Aroui told reporters. “We have to move cautiously here.”

Tunisia has struggled to subdue hardline Islamists and jihadists opposed to the transition to democracy following the 2011 fall of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, and the military has cracked down hard on militants in the run up to the election…