The most radical branches of the ultra-conservative Salafists seek Sharia law
Hundreds of Salafists have fought with security forces and attacked a police station in a Tunisian town.
The fighting spread across Jendouba, and were sparked when the ultra-conservative Muslims began protesting against the arrest of four fellow Muslims.
The figures suggest that those who took part, armed with clubs and Molotov cocktails, swelled to over 1000 during the day.
After setting fire to the security headquarters, the group attacked bars and stores selling alcohol.Angered by the arrest of fellow Muslims in connection with previous attacks on alcohol sellers the mob ran amok.
"Four men were arrested in connection with attacks on alcohol vendors," Interior Ministry official Lutfi al-Haydari acknowledged.
One eyewitness in the town said the rioters were armed with petrol bombs, knives, clubs and some appeared to have small arms.
"Masked Salafis armed with swords, petrol bombs and rocks attacked shops in the town and destroyed the goods inside and then set fire to the police station," the witness, who declined to give his name, told the news agency.
"The whole town is in a state of alarm and fear because of these clashes."
The TAP news agency, the country’s official agency, said police had fired tear gas to disperse the protesters who eventually took refuge in a mosque.
Since the fall in January 2011 of Tunisia's autocratic leader, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, there has been a resurgence of hardline Islamists in the country many professing to be members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Many of the Salafists' most radical branches have been holding demonstrations to demand an introduction of Sharia law in Tunisia.