Tunisia arrests 12 accused of plotting car bomb attack on top politician



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TUNIS, Tunisia — A terrorist plot to kill a top politician with a car bomb has been foiled and 12 people arrested, Tunisian authorities said Tuesday.

Police dismantled several militant cells that were planning to plunge the country into turmoil ahead of parliamentary elections set for Oct. 26, Interior Ministry spokesman Mohammed Ali Aroui said in a press conference.

Tunisia overthrew its secular dictator in 2011 and is in the midst of a democratic transition. During the process, it has had to cope with a rise of extremist Islamic groups.

The banned Ansar al-Shariah group is linked to al-Qaida and believed to be behind the assassination of two politicians last year and the deaths of dozens of soldiers.

Those arrested included a woman, identified as Fatma Zouaghi, who allegedly had financed the plot and was running the media arms of Ansar al-Shariah.

Police also arrested Hafedh Ben Hassine, the brother of the group's founder, Seifallah, who is believed to be hiding in Libya.

On Sunday, liberal politician Ahmed Nejib Chebbi of the Jomhouri Party said on TV that he had been informed by police he was the target of a foiled car bomb plot.

As the birthplace of the Arab Spring pro-democracy demonstrations that swept the region, Tunisia's parliamentary elections as well as the presidential ones set for November, are being closely watched.

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