Tunis: A 30-year old woman blew herself up in the centre of the Tunisian capital on Monday, wounding nine people including eight police in what the Interior Ministry called a "terrorist explosion".
Tunisia, whose economy depends heavily on tourism, has been under a state of emergency since November 2015, but security has improved since a series of militant attacks targeting tourists caused the near collapse of the sector three years ago.
Witnesses described Monday's blast on Tunis's central Habib Bourguiba avenue where hundreds of police later cordoned off an area near the landmark Municipal Theatre and the French embassy. "I was in front of the theatre and heard a huge explosion," witness Mohamed Ekbal bin Rajib told Reuters. Ambulances could be heard rushing to the scene. Shops were closed down on the avenue, usually one of the busiest streets in the capital and the site of protests that toppled long-serving leader Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali at the start of the 2011 "Arab Spring" of regional revolts.
The bomber had no previously known militant background, the interior ministry said.
Local media said the woman, named "Mouna", had a university degree in English and was from the coastal governorate of Mahdia. There were no tourists among the injured, a security source said.
In 2015, 21 people were killed during a hostage siege in its national museum, the Bardo in Tunis, and a gunman killed 38 people on a resort beach. The following year, militants tried to capture the town of Ben Guerdane near the Libyan border. There have been no attacks on that scale since then, but the economy has remained troubled and the authorities are concerned over the presence of militants in neighbouring Libya.
Tunisia is one of the few Arab democracies, and the only country to throw off a long-serving autocrat during the Arab Spring without triggering large scale unrest or civil war.
It has since been credited with carrying out a democratic transition, holding free elections and guaranteeing fundamental rights in a new constitution. But turmoil and militant attacks have scared off tourists and investors, worsening an economic crisis caused by a chronic deficit. Some 3,000 Tunisians have joined IS and other militant groups in Iraq, Syria and neighbouring Libya while dissent over unemployment has risen in recent years in southern and central areas.