World News

Anti-govt protest: Petrol bombs thrown at Jewish school in Tunisia

Anti-govt protest: Petrol bombs thrown at Jewish school in Tunisia

The recent unrest started with peaceful protests against the austerity measures last week, but escalated into clashes with police in the night of Monday to Tuesday.

Protests have become common in Tunisia in January, the anniversary of the 2011 revolt, which was sparked by the death of Mohamed Bouazizi, a street seller who set himself on fire in a protest over unemployment and police harassment.

On Thursday, unrest was limited to sporadic clashes in the northern city of Siliana, in Sidi Bouzid in central Tunisia and Douz in the south of the North African country.

Tunisian police arrested 237 people, including two Islamists, for attacking police stations and government buildings and for vandalism in anti-government protests in several parts of the country, the Interior Ministry said Wednesday. Sixteen "Islamist extremists" were among those detained, he said.

At least one person has died and authorities said 330 people were arrested overnight, Reuters reports.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, Belhassen al-Waslati, said military forces were deployed in a number of states "to secure the authorities' headquarters and public facilities, and protect them from the dangers of looting, theft and sabotage".

Tunisia's main opposition Popular Front had called for demonstrations through the week.

"Wherever you go, in a shop or in a drugstore, every price is higher", said Wael Naouar, a protester.

Demonstrations broke out last week over tax increases and spending cuts included in the new 2018 budget, claiming the life of one protester.

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The government has blamed the opposition and "troublemakers" for stoking unrest, a charge the opposition has denied. Hazem Chikhaoui, a 22-year-old student representative in Tunis, said the security forces were "aiming to terrorise and silence protesters through systematic violence".

But public anger has been building since January 1, when the government raised the price of petrol and other items and hiked social security contributions and taxes on cars, phone calls, internet usage and hotel accommodation.

Tunisia's has been in economic crisis since 2011, when the Arab Spring uprising unseated the government.

Mhamdi told Al Jazeera in a telephone interview on Tuesday that many Tunisian youth have lost faith in political parties.

"This government, like every government after [Zine El Abidine] Ben Ali, only gives promises and has done nothing", she said, referring to longtime Tunisian leader who was forced to step down after the country's 2011 revolution.

Tunisia has been under a state of emergency since 2015 following a series of deadly jihadist attacks.

Tunisia appears to have little scope to back away from austerity.

Global lenders extended a crucial $2.8bn (£2.1bn) loan to Tunisia past year, but have demanded cuts to the civil service and a broader austerity programme.


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