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4 police, 2 jihadists killed in Tunisia raids: ministry

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Four policemen and two suspected jihadists were killed during security operations Wednesday near the Tunisian capital and in the south of the country, the government said.

[TUNIS] Four policemen and two suspected jihadists were killed during security operations Wednesday near the Tunisian capital and in the south of the country, the government said.

Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring, has suffered from a wave of jihadist violence since its 2011 revolution that ousted longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

In Wednesday's deadliest violence, four policemen were killed when a militant detonated his explosives belt after a firefight erupted in the Tatouine governorate, said the interior ministry.

A national guard unit had carried out the raid acting on information from an "anti-terrorist" operation earlier the same day near Tunis.

"One terrorist element was shot dead while the other detonated his explosives belt, killing two officers and two agents of the national guard," said the ministry.

In the earlier raid, two suspected jihadists were killed during a raid near the capital against a cell planning "simultaneous" attacks, the same source said.

16 others were arrested during the operation in Ariana province just outside Tunis, and Kalashnikov assault rifles, pistols and ammunition seized.

The interior ministry said the suspects had gathered in the area from different parts of the country.

A resident of the Sanhaji district told AFP that a two-hour gunbattle erupted with the suspects after the national guard launched the raid at around 8:00 am (0700 GMT).

"They were not from the neighbourhood. We didn't know them. They rented the house recently," she said.

The Islamic State group claimed brazen attacks last year on the National Bardo Museum in Tunis and a beach resort near Sousse that killed a total of 60 people, all but one of them foreign tourists.

A November suicide bombing in the capital, also claimed by IS, killed 12 presidential guards and prompted the authorities to declare a state of emergency.

Thousands of Tunisians have joined jihadist groups in conflict zones such as Iraq, Syria and Libya over the past few years.

AFP