Tunisia election
People walk past posters for parliamentary elections in Tunis Reuters

Tunisian authorities have killed five women and one man in a bid to end a stalemate with suspected Islamist militants sheltering in a house in the Oued Ellil suburb of the capital Tunis.

Members of the country's security forces moved into the house after negotiations failed to evacuate the women and children. One child and a member of security forces were also wounded in the assault. Interior Minister Mohammed Ali Aroui described the dead were terrorists.

Police surrounded the house after a tip-off on Thursday. An exchange of fire with those inside left a member of Tunisia's security forces killed in the crossfire: "Our agent died of a bullet wound in the eye sustained in clashes with a terrorist group," an official told AFP.

Tunisian security forces are conducting an anti-terrorism operation against suspected Islamist militants across the country ahead of key parliamentary elections.

Mohammed Ali Aroui, the interior ministry spokesman, confirmed that two Islamist fighters were arrested in the southern town of Kebili after an exchange of fire with authorities in which a bystander was killed. The men were allegedly planning attacks ahead of parliamentary elections to be held on Sunday.

Authorities had warned that Islamist radicals seeking to overthrow the state would attempt to disrupt the elections, according to AP.

Reeling from three years of economic stagnation, Tunisians are expected to vote for the party they believe can boost jobs growth and opportunities.

According to early polling data, the election looks set to be a two-horse race between the Islamist Ennahda party that won the country's first election, and the secularist Nidaa Tounes party headed by a former Ben Ali parliament speaker.

Ennahda, which has strong ties to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood party, has been tainted somewhat by its relatively poor economic legacy while it governed the country from October 2011 until January 2014.

Tunisia has often been cited as the only success of the Arab revolts that swept the region in 2011. With a new constitution and free elections, it looks like experts have reason to call Tunisia an island of liberty amid the chaos.

However Tunisia has also constantly fed Isis (Islamic State) with foreign fighters, becoming one of the most important source for militants.

Tunisian officials said that at least 2,400 Tunisians have travelled to Syria and Iraq to join Islamic State and thousands more were stopped by authorities in their attempt to go to the war zone. Young people who are still jobless and are oppressed by the authorities are lured into the self-styled caliphate as an true example of fairness and equality, with a higher standard of living.

Ennahda has struggled to contain the radical Salafi fringes within the party after appealing to them in the aftermath of the Tunisian revolution.

Officials said that at least 400 Tunisians have returned from the Middle East. Many of them have been arrested, according to the New York Times.