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Heavy Tunisian security crackdown blocks hardline Muslim rally

  • A Tunisian security officer stands guard in the city of Kairouan where ultraconservative Islamic group, Ansar al-Shariah's, annual conference was supposed to be held, Sunday May 19, 2013. A massive Tunisian security presence has surrounded the country’s main religious center of Kairouan and prevented hardline Muslims from holding their annual gathering. Some 11,000 police surrounded the city this weekend and patrolled inside to prevent the conference from taking place because “of the threat it represented to security and public order.” (AP Photo/ Amine Landoulsi)The Associated Press

  • A Tunisian security officer stands guard in the city of Kairouan where ultraconservative Islamic group, Ansar al-Shariah's, annual conference was supposed to be held, Sunday May 19, 2013. A massive Tunisian security presence has surrounded the country’s main religious center of Kairouan and prevented hardline Muslims from holding their annual gathering. Some 11,000 police surrounded the city this weekend and patrolled inside to prevent the conference from taking place because “of the threat it represented to security and public order.” (AP Photo/ Amine Landoulsi)The Associated Press

  • Tunisian security officers stand guard, in the city of Kairouan, where ultraconservative Islamic group Ansar al-Shariah's annual conference was supposed to be held, Sunday May 19, 2013. A massive Tunisian security presence has surrounded the country’s main religious center of Kairouan and prevented hardline Muslims from holding their annual gathering. Some 11,000 police surrounded the city this weekend and patrolled inside to prevent the conference from taking place because “of the threat it represented to security and public order.” (AP Photo/ Amine Landoulsi)The Associated Press

  • Tunisian security officers check vehicles in the city of Kairouan where ultraconservative Islamic group, Ansar al-Shariah's, annual conference was supposed to be held, Sunday May 19, 2013. A massive Tunisian security presence has surrounded the country’s main religious center of Kairouan and prevented hardline Muslims from holding their annual gathering. Some 11,000 police surrounded the city this weekend and patrolled inside to prevent the conference from taking place because “of the threat it represented to security and public order.” (AP Photo/ Amine Landoulsi)The Associated Press

  • Tunisian security officers stand guard in the city of Kairouan where ultraconservative Islamic group, Ansar al-Shariah's, annual conference was supposed to be held, Sunday May 19, 2013. A massive Tunisian security presence has surrounded the country’s main religious center of Kairouan and prevented hardline Muslims from holding their annual gathering. Some 11,000 police surrounded the city this weekend and patrolled inside to prevent the conference from taking place because “of the threat it represented to security and public order.” (AP Photo/ Amine Landoulsi)The Associated Press

A major Tunisian security presence has surrounded the country's main religious center and prevented hardline Muslims from holding their annual gathering.

Police scuffled with rock throwing young men and fired tear gas in Kairouan on Sunday, where the Ansar al-Shariah organization had announced it would gather thousands for its annual conference.

Police also arrested the spokesman for the movement, Seifeddine Rais, who said Thursday the state would bear responsibility for any blood spilled if the conference was banned.

About 11,000 police surrounded the city this weekend and conducted patrols to prevent the conference from taking place because "of the threat it represented to security and public order."

Tunisia has seen a rise in ultraconservative Muslim groups, known as salafis, which have attacked what they call signs of impiety.