Tunisia imposes nationwide curfew after protests over unemployment


Tunisia will impose a night-time curfew across the country on Friday following violent protests against unemployment. The curfew will start at 8 pm (1900 GMT) on Friday until 5 am, the Interior Ministry said, following attacks on public and private property during the protests that erupted earlier this week and spread to several parts of the country.

"The continuation of these acts poses dangers to the security of the country and the citizens," the ministry said in a statement on Facebook. The demonstrations started this week in the western central province of Kasserine and have spread to other areas including the capital, Tunis. Protesters attacked police posts and torched security cars in Tunis, the north-western city of Jendouba and the northern province of Kairouna late on Thursday, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry said. Several stores and two banks were looted in Tunis' impoverished western district of Ettadhamen.

Clashes meanwhile erupted between protesters and security forces in the central city of Sidi Bouzaid, the birthplace of the 2010 uprising that deposed longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, local media said. No casualties were reported. The government will hold a crisis meeting on Saturday to discuss measures to calm the protesters, a cabinet official told dpa without giving details.

In Kasserine on Sunday, an unemployed youth reportedly suffered a deadly electric shock when he climbed a power pole to protest against a rejected job application. His death was reminiscent of the self-immolation of street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi on 17 December 2010 in Sidi Bouzaid that sparked anti-government protests across Tunisia, which then spread across North Africa and the Middle East. A policeman was killed in Kasserine's town of Feriana on Wednesday when his car overturned during clashes with protesters.

In a bid to ease tensions in Kasserine, the government unveiled measures, including the creation of 5,000 jobs and the financing of small-scale projects there. Unemployment rates in Tunisia are estimated to have reached about 15 percent against 12 percent in 2010. Tunisia is widely seen as the sole democratic success story of the 2010-11 Arab Spring uprisings.

However, the country has been in the grip of an economic slowdown resulting from the unrest that followed Ben Ali's overthrow. Tunisia is also struggling to control a militant insurgency. Tourism, one of country's main sources of income, has been hard hit by terrorist attacks.    (dpa)

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