Women walk in the city of Kairouan, Tunisia, on May 18, 2013
Women walk in the city of Kairouan, Tunisia, on May 18, 2013 © Fethi Belaid - AFP/File
Women walk in the city of Kairouan, Tunisia, on May 18, 2013
AFP
Last updated: February 15, 2014

Tunisia police steps up checks for veiled terror suspects

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Tunisian authorities said Friday they will tighten checks on people wearing the Muslim full-face veil, as part of efforts to combat Islamist violence, claiming the cover was being used by fugitives.

"The interior ministry announces that it will strengthen checks on everyone wearing the niqab," or the veil, the ministry said on its official Facebook page.

"The measure is being taken because of the threat the country faces and because of terrorist suspects using the niqab .. to disguise themselves and escape justice," it added.

The ministry called on Tunisians to be "understanding" and help the security forces in their work.

Women were banned from wearing the full-face veil under the regime of ex-president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

But the practice has become increasingly common since the 2011 revolution that toppled him, sparking a heated debate in Tunisia between Islamists and secularists.

Universities in particular, some of which does not allow the niqab to be worn in class, have witnessed violent confrontations between the rival factions.

Tunisia has been rocked by sporadic violence linked to militant Islamists suppressed under the former dictator, who are blamed for the separate assassinations last year of two secular politicians.

Their deaths plunged the country into a crisis from which it is only starting to emerge, with the resignation last month of the Islamist-led government and the adoption of a consensus constitution.

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