|[AFP/Fethi Belaid] Abou Iyadh urged supporters to stand firm in a recent Facebook post.|
"To the tyrants who think they are Islamists... know that the stupid things you are doing are dragging you to war," AFP quoted the statement from Abou Iyadh (real name Seif Allah Ibn Hussein) as saying.
The Abou Iyadh statement was posted on Ansar al-Sharia's Facebook page after Tunisian authorities moved to crack down on salafist activity in the wake of skirmishes with al-Qaeda militants along the Algerian border.
Clashes broke out between security forces and salafists in some poor neighbourhoods near the capital after the authorities prevented the salafists from setting up preaching tents and from delivering sermons.
Sami Essid, one of the leaders of Ansar al-Sharia, condemned recent statements by Interior Minister Lotfi Bin Jeddou about banning preaching tents, charitable convoys and Qur'anic schools.
"He has declared war on Muslims in Tunisia," he said.
"The third annual congress of Ansar al-Sharia will be held in Kairouan again and opposite Uqba Ibn Nafi Mosque on Sunday (May 19th)," he confirmed.
"Abou Iyadh, a leader of Ansar al-Sharia who is wanted by the security forces, won't attend the third annual congress of the group," Essid added. "The only reason for that is that he loves Tunisia and doesn't want to confuse his supporters if he gets arrested by the security forces before them."
In his Sunday statement, Abou Iyadh said that Ansar al-Sharia's young people "would not hesitate to sacrifice for their religion in the land of Kairouan".
Ansar al-Sharia spokesperson Seifeddine Rais told Shems FM on Tuesday that the salafist group expects 30,000 to 40,000 people to attend its Kairouan congress.
(not the end)
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By Yasmin Najjar and Jemal Arfaoui in Tunis for Magharebia – 14/05/2013