Dozens of hardline Salafi Muslims attacked a hotel in Sidi Bouzid, birthplace of Tunisia’s revolution, because it was serving alcohol, the hotel’s owner said on Tuesday.
It was believed to be the first such attack on a hotel in the North African country, which relies heavily on tourism.
“About 100 Salafis attacked the hotel on Monday night and smashed all its contents. They entered the rooms and damaged furniture and smashed bottles of alcohol,” Jamil Horcheni, the owner of the hotel, told Reuters.
He said ultra-conservative Islamists had threatened to attack his hotel in May if he did not stop selling alcohol.
Tunisia, whose authoritarian president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, was overthrown by a popular uprising last year, now has an elected Islamist-led government. There have been several attacks on cultural and tourist sites since the revolt.
In May, Salafis staged an anti-alcohol protest in Sidi Bouzid, 300 km (186 miles) west of the capital Tunis, demanding that hotels and bars be relocated outside the city.
In recent weeks, Salafi groups have prevented several concerts and plays from taking place in Tunisian cities, saying they violate Islamic principles, worrying secular-minded Tunisians who believe freedom of expression is in danger.
The secular opposition has accused the ruling Islamist Ennahda party of colluding with Salafi groups. Ennahda has also come under fire from Salafis who say it fails to defend Islamic values. Ennahda denies the charges from both sides.
Editing by Alistair Lyon.