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Tunisia imposes nationwide curfew following four days of unrest

© Mohamed Khalil, AFP | Protesters face off against police in the Tunisian city Kasserine on January 21, 2016


Latest update : 2016-01-22

Tunisia on Friday declared a nighttime curfew across the country to try to calm the most serious outbreak of social unrest since the 2011 revolution.

Five years after the overthrow of longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, protests against unemployment and poverty are again shaking the North African nation.

Anger erupted over the death on Saturday of an unemployed young man who was electrocuted when he climbed an electricity pole while demonstrating in central Tunisia.

The interior ministry said the 8pm to 5am curfew was necessary to prevent damage to property and to ensure public safety.

"Anyone disobeying this decision risks prosecution, apart from medical emergencies and those working at night," it said in a statement.

'It is the first time since the revolution that national curfew is enforced in the entire country'

Authorities called for calm after 16 people were arrested on vandalism charges in a suburb of Tunis, the latest incident in almost a week of unrest.

National Guard units clashed with individuals in balaclavas until early Friday morning, an official said.

An AFP journalist reported that two household appliance stores and a bank branch had been ransacked on the neighbourhood's main street and a police post had been burnt.

In central Tunisia, security forces have clashed with protesters in several towns, including in Kasserine where the unrest started, using tear gas against them.

At least three police stations have been attacked over the past 24 hours and 42 members of the security forces have been wounded, the interior ministry said.

"This is the most serious social crisis since 2011," independent analyst Selim Kharrat told AFP.

The unrest has echoes of the public anger unleashed by the death of a street vendor who set himself on fire in December 2010 in protest at unemployment and police harassment.

That desperate act of defiance provided the spark for the uprising that overthrew Ben Ali and inspired revolutions around the region.

The new spike in unrest prompted Prime Minister Habib Essid to cut short a European tour.

While Tunisia is hailed as a rare success story of the Arab Spring uprisings that swept across the region, the authorities have failed to resolve the problems of social exclusion and regional inequalities.

Tunisia also faces jihadist violence including attacks claimed by the Islamic State group last year at the national museum and a beach resort that killed a total of 60 people, all but one of them foreign tourists.

The authorities on Friday urged Tunisians to be patient with them.

"We would like people to show a little wisdom and know that it is in our interest to safeguard Tunisia," Kamel Ayadi, minister for public services, governance and the fight against corruption, said on the radio.


Date created : 2016-01-22


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