Hardline Islamists hold annual meeting in Tunisia's KairouanPolitics Al-Qayrawan, Tunisia - 20 May 2012
Thousands of hardline Islamists, some in Afghan military garb and waving swords, converged on May 20, 2012 in central Tunisia to rally for one of the country's most radical religious movements.
Under the stunned gaze of a few tourists, who quickly scurried away, busloads of supporters of the Ansar al-Sharia movement poured into Kairouan, Islam's fourth-holiest city.
The assembly provided a vivid illustration of the rise of the hardline Islamist movement in Tunisia, a nation under secular rule until a recent revolution.
Waving black flags proclaiming their extreme doctrine known as Salafism, the male crowd from all parts of Tunisia unfurled a large banner on the minaret of the city's mosque, the oldest in Africa.
"We are all the children of Osama (bin Laden)", and "Jews, Jews, the army of Mohammed is back" were among the slogans that could be heard, though organisers tried to hush such chanting.
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