An overnight curfew has been imposed in eight regions of Tunisia, including the resorts of Sousse and Monastir, following serious rioting.

The eight-hour curfew, which also covers the capital Tunis, was introduced after violent attacks in protest at an art exhibition displaying paintings deemed to be “blasphemous”, reports the BBC.

The government has blamed ultra-conservative Islamists known as Salafists for the violence, in which police stations were set on fire.

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office said: “A state of emergency exists and a curfew has been imposed in the greater Tunis area, including in the suburbs of Ben Arous, Ariana and Manouba, and the towns of Sousse, Monastir, Jendouba and Ben Guerdane.

“The curfew hours are 2100 to 0500.  Additional curfews or other temporary movement restrictions may be imposed or changed with little or no notice.

“You should observe instructions given by local security authorities and/or your tour operator and are advised to carry a copy of your passport, or other form of photo ID, at all times as proof of nationality and identity.”

Imposition of the curfew came a day after the Tunisian National Tourist Office reported a 34% rise in travellers from the UK in May to more than 31,000.

The country’s justice minister Nourredine Bhiri told a local radio station: “These are terrorist groups which have lost control, they are isolated in society.”

He said some of the violence, which came hours after al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri urged Tunisians to turn against the government, may have been inspired by the group.