World Bulletin / News Desk
A Tunisian Salafist leader on Monday escaped from a mosque that had been surrounded by security forces seeking to arrest him over clashes at the U.S. Embassy last week during protests against an anti-Islam film, a Reuters witness said.
Saif-Allah Benahssine, leader of the Tunisian branch of the Ansar al-Sharia, slipped away after hundreds of his followers stormed out of al-Fatah mosque in Tunis.
A security source told Reuters Benahssine was wanted over Friday's protest in which four people were killed and 46 injured when police opened fire to quell hundreds of protesters who smashed windows, hurled petrol bombs and stones and started fires in the embassy.
On Monday, about 1,000 riot and anti-terrorist police surrounded the mosque where Benahssine, also known as Abu Iyadh, was meeting hundreds of his followers. They later retreated to 200 metres (650 feet) from the mosque for unexplained reasons, witnesses said. Interior Ministry officials could not be reached for comment.
Ansar al-Sharia has endorsed a Facebook call to protest against the short film, made in the United States and trailed online, which insults the Prophet Mohammad as a fool and a womaniser. It has triggered protests across the Muslim world.
The party Ennahda, which leads Tunisia's governing coalition, advised against joining the protests.