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Tunisia bans face veils in public institutions after three bombings in one week

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By Emma Beswick  with Reuters
Tunisia bans face veils in public institutions after three bombings in one week
Copyright  Reuters

Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed has banned the wearing of the niqab in public institutions for security reasons, according to Reuters, citing an official source.

"Chahed signed a government decree that bars any person with an undisclosed face from access to public headquarters, administrations, institutions, for security reasons," the source told the news agency.

It came as the country suffered three terror attacks in one week, which Islamic State claimed responsibility for.

A wanted militant blew himself up in the capital on Tuesday — witnesses claimed he was disguised in a niqab when he carried out a suicide bombing. The Interior Ministry denied this.

Two suicide bombers blew themselves up in separate attacks on police in Tunis on Thursday, killing one police officer and wounding several other people including civilians.

Chahed denounced the twin attacks as a "cowardly and unsuccessful terrorist operation".

The attacks came as the country prepared for autumn elections and at the height of a tourist season, during which it hopes to draw record numbers of visitors.

Tunisia joined an increasing number of countries in the area, including neighbouring Algeria and Morocco, in imposing restrictions on the use of religious coverings in the name of security.

After a decades-long ban under secular former presidents Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Habib Bourguiba, who rejected all forms of Islamic dress, women were allowed to wear the hijab and niqab in Tunisia in 2011.

The country has been battling militant groups operating near its border with Algeria in remote areas since an uprising overthrew Ben Ali in 2011.