Tunisia ends state of emergency after 3 years

Tunisia's president on Thursday lifted the state of emergency that has been in place since the outbreak of a popular revolution three years ago, and a top military chief said soldiers stationed in some of the country's most sensitive areas will return to their barracks.

The decree from President Moncef Marzouki said the state of emergency ordered in January 2011 is lifted across the country immediately.

The state of emergency was imposed by longtime President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and was maintained after he was overthrown.

At the start it included a curfew and a ban on meetings of more than three people, but it has been relaxed over time. However it has continued to give the military and police special powers to intervene in unrest or security threats.

Tunisia has been battling Al Qaeda linked extremists since the revolution, but officials said the security situation has improved recently.

Col. Maj. Mokhtar Ben Nasr told The Associated Press that soldiers deployed in force across Tunisia would return to their barracks.

After the end of the dictatorship that touched off the Arab Spring uprisings across the region, Tunisians brought a moderate Islamist party into power allied with two other secular parties. But the coalition struggled in the face of continuing social unrest, high unemployment, the rise of a radical Islamist movement with ties to Al Qaeda and the assassination of two left-wing politicians.

Despite that, Tunisia remains a regional bright spot, since its fractious elected assembly finally wrote and passed a progressive constitution earlier this year.