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Protests Across Tunisia Over Price Hikes, Worsening Economic Hardships

13 January 2018

Peaceful demonstrations erupted last week, but turned violent on Monday and Tuesday as they spread to more than 20 towns including in the suburbs of the capital, Tunis.

Khelifa Chibani, a spokesman for the interior ministry, said 44 people had been arrested for carrying weapons such as knives, setting government buildings on fire and looting shops. Witnesses told the news media they believed the man had been struck by a security vehicle, but the Interior Ministry said in a statement that he had had chronic shortness of breath and that his body showed no signs of violence or of having been run over.

The government has defended the recent price and tax increases, saying they are necessary to revive the economy and curb budget deficit.

Activists have also called for fresh demonstrations on Sunday, the seventh anniversary of the toppling of authoritarian president Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.

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

The Tunisian government, a coalition of Islamist, secularist and independent factions, have accused criminal and opposition elements of being behind the protests.

Protests have broken out across Tunisia after anti-austerity measures came into effect on January 1.

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After the movement, however, nine administrations during the last seven years in Tunisia have failed to mitigate the plaguing high unemployment rates and economic distress of the common man.

On the island of Djerba in the southeast of the country, a Jewish school was attacked by young protesters wearing hoods.

In a number of areas, the army has been called out to back up local security forces and protect government buildings and banks. He did not give estimates of the number of injured protesters.

Police fired tear gas at demonstrators in the Djebel Lahmer district of Tunis, while there were flare-ups and riots in the city of Gafsa and impoverished inland regions of Kasserine and Jelma. One protester apparently died of tear gas inhalation.

Mr Chahed is imposing austerity on Tunisia as part of a loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund.

Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed on Tuesday promised to crack down on rioters after two days of anti-austerity rallies in the country.

Meanwhile, similar protests have broken out in the African nation of Sudan against the autocratic regime of Omar al-Bashir, which announced sharp price increases for flour, resulting in a doubling of the price of bread overnight.

Protests Across Tunisia Over Price Hikes, Worsening Economic Hardships