TUNISIA: Army deployed, 300 arrested as violent unrest persists

However, Tunisia has repeatedly insisted it is safe and a year ago the UK Government removed the advice for the coastal regions of the nation, including capital Tunis.

The country remains tense.

Protests are expected to continue through January 14, the anniversary marking the removal of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the country's former president. Chibani added that buildings of the security forces were also damaged in the southern town of Hamma.

Tunisians have held rallies across the country to protest the government's new austerity measures, aimed at minimizing the country's deficit.

Those arrested participated in lootings of private and public properties late Wednesday in various parts of Tunisia, ministry spokesman Khalifa Chibani said.

Europe is concerned about stability in Tunisia, partly because unemployment there has forced many young Tunisians to go overseas: The number of boats smuggling migrants to Italy has been rising and Tunisia has also produced the largest number of militants heading for battlefields in Iraq, Syria and Libya. There is no available figure on the number of injured protesters.

Unrest was also reported in the working-class neighborhoods of Djebel Lahmer and Zahrouni on the outskirts of Tunis, the central cities of Gafsa and Kasserine, and the northern town of Jedaida.

"Unknown people took the opportunity of the protests and threw Molotov cocktails into the lobby of a Jewish religious school in Djerba", Trabelsi said. Police violence is being carried out even against protesters who were just writing tags on a wall.

TUNISIA-PROTESTS
Riot police clash with protesters during demonstrations in Tunis on Wednesday against rising prices and tax increases

Tunisian authorities arrested another 150 people including local opposition leaders on Friday, bringing the total detained close to 800 in response to demonstrations this week against price and tax rises.

After the death of the protester, unrest spread, and at least two dozen towns have been affected.

"Protesters are not entitled to overthrow the current regime because it is a democratically elected regime", said government spokesman Iyad Dahmani.

"The state is strong, will shoulder its responsibility and will not go back on a law because a number of saboteurs have gone out on the street", said Investment Minister Ziad al-Aazari.

Chahed on Thursday accused political opponents and corrupt barons of stoking the unrest.

"I want to calm down Tunisians".

While politicians had so far resisted the urge to backtrack on reforms, the ICG said "in the context of an economic slump, the nostalgia for a strong state, like the one that the former regime claimed to defend, is spreading".

The Interior Ministry warned in a statement for viewers to beware of "trumped-up" videos and "fake information" circulating on social media aimed at seeding panic.

Vanessa Coleman

Comments