Tunisia's Interior Ministry spokesman says police have surrounded a suspected militant hideout in a seaside suburb of the capital and exchanged fire with Islamist militants.

Mohammed Ali Aroui said Tuesday morning that at least two militants and one policeman were killed in the shootout that started the previous night in Raoued.

He described those involved as "salafis," followers of an ultraconservative interpretation of Islam who are increasingly at odds with the state. Radical Islamists are also implicated in the shooting deaths of two left-wing politicians in 2013.

After Tunisians overthrew their secular dictatorship in 2011, there was a rise in the salafi movement that took a hostile attitude to the new government for not being more pious.

Last year the largest salafi group, Ansar al-Shariah, was declared a terrorist organization.