Wanted militant blows himself up in Tunis

Third such incident within a week comes months ahead of an election and at the peak of a tourist season in which Tunisia is hoping for a record number of visitors.

TUNIS - The suspected mastermind of twin suicide bombings in Tunis last week was killed when he blew himself up during a police manhunt outside the capital, the interior ministry said Wednesday.

Police had tracked the suspect down to the working class suburb of Intilaka where he detonated a suicide vest on Tuesday night, ministry spokesman Sofiene Zaag said.

"The terrorist Aymen Smiri was implicated in the twin suicide bombings on Thursday and investigations proved that he was the mastermind of the operation," Zaag said, adding he was a "very active and very dangerous leader."

The investigation had led police to the 23-year-old who lives in Ibn Khaldoun, near Intilaka, the spokesman said.

"We tracked him down and followed him until he was cornered in Intilaka but happily he blew himself up away from other people."

Smiri was suspected of "planning a terrorist operation targeting security personnel," Zaag added.

His remains were strewn along a more than 50 metre (yard) stretch of pavement near a metro station in Intilaka.

Resident Ibrahim Mejri, 35, said: "I saw him running to try to get away from the police then suddenly he blew himself up."

Thursday's bombings in Tunis killed a policeman and brought back memories of deadly 2015 attacks on foreign holidaymakers and security personnel that dealt a serious blow to the country's vital tourism industry.

"The two suicide bombers were identified and a significant number of arrests made," the ministry spokesman said.

Tunisia has been battling militant groups operating in remote areas near its border with Algeria since an uprising overthrew autocratic leader Zine Abidine Ben Ali in 2011. High unemployment has also stoked unrest in recent years.

Last October, a woman blew herself up in the centre of Tunis, wounding 15 people, including 10 police officers, in an explosion that shattered a long period of calm after dozens of people died in militant attacks in 2015.

Security has tightened since authorities imposed a state of emergency in November 2015 after those attacks, one at a museum in Tunis and another on a beach in the Mediterranean seaside town of Sousse. A third attack targeted presidential guards in the capital. Islamic State claimed responsibility.