FRANCE 24 reporter injured in Tunisian clashes
Violent clashes between Tunisians protesting joblessness and police entered their third day in the town of Siliana on Thursday. FRANCE24’s Tunisia correspondent David Thomson and his driver were injured in earlier clashes.
Tunisia's army intervened Thursday in a third day of violent clashes in a northern town between police and striking residents who are demanding jobs and investment.
Witnesses said 15,000 people marched through the town of Siliana, in Tunisia’s economically deprived interior on the edge of the Sahara desert, demanding the governor's resignation.
After two days of battles that a hospital said left more than 300 people injured, police pulled out of Siliana Wednesday night, then returned Thursday afternoon and attempted to disperse the crowd with tear gas and shotguns, sparking more violence before army units restored order, witness Mouldi Kenzizi told The Associated Press.
FRANCE 24 correspondent David Thomson and his Tunisian driver Hamdi Tlili were among those injured in the clashes Wednesday, apparently after being fired on by riot police.
The pair later assured FRANCE 24 that they are safe and out of danger.
“I have never seen such a disproportionate use of force in two years of covering demonstrations in Tunisia. The town of Siliana is on fire,” FRANCE 24's Thomson told Tunisian station Radio Kalima.
Residents of neighboring towns joined Thursday's protest march and there were also demonstrations in solidarity with Siliana throughout the province - including attacks on police posts and headquarters of the Ennahda Party.
Siliana residents were also calling for the release of 14 people arrested 20 months ago and still being held without trial.
Tunisia ousted its president Zain al-Abidine Ben Ali last year, setting off a wave of uprisings that toppled rulers in Egypt, Libya and Yemen and inspired the revolt in Syria.
Its new, elected Islamist-led government has since struggled to revive the economy in the face of a decline in trade with the crisis-hit euro zone and disputes between secularists and Salafi Islamists over the future direction of the North African state.
Many protesters demanded called for the resignation of local officials, saying the authorities had failed to release development funds for their region.
State television said that at least 80 people were injured and that residents blocked the entrances to the city, setting tyres alight on roads.
Iyed Dahmani, a politician from the Republican Party in the town, said the national guard - an interior ministry-run security force - had deployed tanks to help restore order.
The protests were the fiercest since hardline Salafi Islamists attacked the U.S. embassy in Tunis in September over an anti-Islam film made in California. That violence left four people dead.
Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali has accused both Salafis and liberal elites of harming Tunisia’s economy and image through their conflict with each other. His Ennahda party has tried to present itself as a middle way between liberals and Salafis.
The World Bank on Tuesday approved a $500 million loan to Tunisia to help it recover from the uprising, with another $700 million loan coming from other donors.
The loan, the World Bank’s second since the revolution, aims to support Tunisia’s economic recovery by providing funds to improve the business and financial sectors and reform social services.
(France24 with wires)