Tunis - Anti-terrorist units of Tunisia's National Guard stormed a pair of houses containing militants in a seaside capital suburb Tuesday, ending nearly a day long stand-off that left several dead.
At least one officer was killed in the exchange of fire that began Monday afternoon when security forces surrounded a house suspected to contain militants in the Raoued suburb of Tunis, said Interior Ministry spokesman Mohammed Ali Aroui.
He described the militants as members of an ultraconservative sect of Islam, known as Salafis, who are increasingly at odds with the state. Radical Islamists are also implicated in the shooting deaths of two left-wing politicians in 2013.
Initial tolls put the number of militants killed at two, but later reports from Tunisian media indicate up to seven gunmen were killed.
Sahbi Jouini, a member of the law enforcement union, said the militants had been holed up in two adjacent houses, one of which was stormed by the masked anti-terror units early in the morning Tuesday.
After Tunisians overthrew their secular dictatorship in 2011, the conservative movement took a hostile attitude to the new post-revolutionary government for not being more pious.
Last year the largest such group, Ansar al-Shariah, was declared a terrorist organization.
Sandwiched between Algeria, birthplace of al-Qaeda's North African branch, and Libya, a source of weapons following its civil war, Tunisia has had to deal with the rising threat of armed militants.
Nearly every month, there is news of a new shoot-out between security forces and militants, many of whom have smuggled in weapons from Libya.
One of the main flashpoints has been a string of low mountains along the border with Algeria where militants have been discovered. At least a dozen soldiers have been killed in clashes around Mount Chaambi in particular, near the city of Kasserine.