Tunisia deploys army to suppress growing unrest

Posted January 13, 2018

Tear gas was sacked into the crowds by police officers to disperse the protests in Tunis and Tebourba, a small town where a protester was killed on Monday.

The number of those detained in the ongoing protests in Tunisia has risen to 778 after 151 people were arrested on Thursday, Interior Ministry spokesman Khalifa Chibani has announced.

Protests broke out in more than 10 towns against price and tax increases put in place by the government in an attempt to stabilize Tunisia's economic crisis.

One protester was killed on Monday, fueling anger although police said they were not responsible.

Tunisia's economy has been in crisis since a 2011 uprising unseated the government and two major militant attacks in 2015 damaged tourism, which comprises 8 percent of gross domestic product.

"Among the achievements of democracy is the opportunity to demonstrate, but we also have an obligation to work for a healthy Tunisian economy", he told AFP.

But Tunisia has had nine governments since Ben Ali's overthrow, none of which have been able to resolve deep-rooted economic problems.

The eruption of mass social upheaval comes just over seven years after the self-immolation of the 26-year-old street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi triggered a sweeping revolt that brought down the Western-backed dictatorship of Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

A representative of Tunisia's Jewish community said two Molotov cocktails were thrown at the entrance to two Talmudic schools on the Mediterranean island of Djerba, but their interiors were not damaged. "The state will remain steadfast", Prime Minister Youssef Chahed said in a video broadcast by local radio.

The army has been deployed in Kebeli, Bizerte and the seaside resort city of Sousse among other towns to protect government buildings that have been targeted by protesters. He didn't give estimates of the number of protesters that were hurt.

Tunisian government security forces used teargas to quell violence across the country, amid scattered protests that erupted last week following price increases imposed by the government. One person has died.

Unrest is also reported in the cities of Gafsa, Kazierin and Sidi Bouzid, where the protests that marked the beginning of the Arab Spring began in 2011.

In December 2017, the International Monetary Fund told Tunisia it needed to take "urgent action" and "decisive measures" to reduce its deficit.