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One protester has died and several others have been injured in Tunisia after radical Islamists defied a ban on their demonstration and clashed with police.

The 27-year-old man was killed in the capital; there was also trouble in the central city of Kairouan.

In Tunis police arrested dozens of people in one district. In the midst of the clashes some of the protesters reportedly lowered the Tunisian flag and replaced it with an al Qaeda banner.

The Salafist group Ansar al-Sharia is the most radical to emerge since the revolution two years ago.

It had wanted to demonstrate in Kairouan where but was forbidden from doing so. The ban did not stop the protesters: they threw stones at police who responded with tear gas.

The demonstrators’ cause gained no sympathy among one group of Kairouan residents. “Why would we want an Islamist state? Earning a living, security and stability, that’s what the Arab world needs!” exclaimed one man.

In Tunis a police union official said: “We’re here to stop their behaviour. We’ll stay for a month if need be. The law must be respected.”

Ansar al-Sharia presents a clear challenge to Tunisia’s government, led by the more moderate Islamists from Ennahda. The Prime Minister Ali Larayedh claimed on Saturday that the group is linked to terrorism.

Al Qaeda’s regional wing has urged it to defy the crackdown.

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