Tunisia Arrests 32, Says It Foiled 'Spectacular' Attacks

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TUNIS — Tunisia arrested 32 militant Islamists, some of them returning from fighting in Syria, who planned "spectacular" attacks, officials said on Saturday.

News of the arrests came one day after a secular-Islamist coalition cabinet headed by Prime Minister Habib Essid took office. The new cabinet faces many challenges, including Islamist groups that emerged after a 2011 uprising.

"Counter-terrorism forces foiled plots to carry out spectacular attacks against vital installations, including the Interior Ministry, security stations and civilian buildings in the capital Tunis," said Mohammed Ali Aroui, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry. He said the group included "several terrorists returned from fighting in Syria."

Aroui said troops killed Tunisian and Algerian militants in Mount Chaambi near the Algerian border. Since a 2011 uprising in Tunisia toppled the regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the country has become a major source of jihadi fighters traveling to Syria.

With an economy heavily reliant on foreign tourism, Tunisia has been cracking down on Islamist militants. The number of Tunisians fighting in Syria has been estimated at about 3,000. A few hundred have returned to Tunisia and many have been tracked down and arrested. Aroui did not give details about the identity of this group.

— Reuters