Hurling stones and wielding clubs and knives, dozens of supporters of Tunisia's Islamist rulers attacked members of the country's main labor union on Tuesday, in the latest sign of unrest in the North African country.
Activists with the General Union of Tunisian Workers were gathering for a march in Tunis to commemorate the 1952 assassination of a historic member when they were set upon by the League for Protection of the Revolution, resulting in pitched battle that injured 10 people before police restored order.
The attackers were shouting "the people want the assassination of the union," according to witnesses.
"These are militias used by the ruling party as their armed wing, " union member Fathi Abaza said.
The league is considered close to the Ennahda Party, a moderate Islamist group that dominates Tunisia's post-revolution government.
The attack follows criticism by members of Ennahda of the union for its support of a general strike in the town of Siliana in the country's interior that resulted in days of clashes and, ultimately, the suspension of the governor, an Ennahda member.
Union head Hocine Abbasi in radio interview said that with these attacks "the door to confrontation is now open. They wanted this and no one will stop the (union) from defending the social, economic and even political situation."
For its part, the Ennahda Party "condemned the violent attack on protesters and expressed its solidarity with all those injured" in a statement. It also called for self-restraint among all actors.
Since overthrowing their dictator in January 2011, Tunisians have elected a new government that has promised to promote democracy. But the country has also been torn by unrest, aggravated by a poor economy.