Police station torched in Tunisia mining region protest

Police station torched in Tunisia mining region protest
A police station in Tunisia's impoverished mining region was set alight by protesters on Wednesday.
2 min read
22 March, 2018
Tunisia has been rocked by protests in recent years [File Photo: AFP]
Hundreds of angry protesters set fire to a police station in Tunisia's impoverished mining region on Wednesday, in a fresh surge of unrest over unemployment and official neglect.

Unemployed youths took to the streets of the town of Mdhilla, close to several mines, clashing with police who fired tear gas.

Five of the youths were briefly hospitalised, a medical source said.

The interior ministry said the police intervened after the protesters tried to interrupt the work of the state phosphate monopoly, the main employer in the region.

Some 700 demonstrators then threw stones and set the police station ablaze, a statement said.

Central Tunisia has been hit by demonstrations this year that saw the North African nation's vital phosphate output blocked for several weeks.

One of the country's highest unemployment rates and a stark lack of infrastructure have fuelled regular unrest in Tunisia's mining region.

The government has sought to calm the latest outburst of anger in the area and dispatched ministers to the region last week.

But locals insisted that officials had not offered enough to solve their problems and there has been an uptick in protests in the past few days.

Although rich in phosphate - which is used to make fertilisers - Tunisia's mining basin is one of the poorest regions in the country, and social unrest is common. 

Phosphate production, a key sector of the Tunisian economy, resumed earlier this month after protests blocked exports at mines for nearly six weeks. 

Decades of corrupt or absent authorities in the region sparked mass protests around the mines in 2008 that were brutally repressed by dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

His fall in a 2011 uprising which sparked the Arab Spring upheavals sparked hope of change - but the situation has failed to improve.

Agencies contributed to this report.