Unrest continues to rock Tunisia as prime minister warns of clampdown

Unrest continues to rock Tunisia as prime minister warns of clampdown
Protests continue to rock Tunisia for the third night despite growing fears of a security crackdown as the prime minister promises the state will remain "steadfast"
2 min read
11 January, 2018

Fears of a security clampdown did not prevent Tunisian protesters from taking to the streets of the capital and four other cities on Wednesday for a third night of violent protests that have erupted across the country.

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

Khayyam ibn al-Sadiq al-Yafrani died during the demonstration after being hit by a security vehicle as it passed near the protesters who had blocked a road with burning tires.

Days before the seventh anniversary of the Arab Spring protests that rocked the country, 300 people took to the streets carrying banners with slogans denouncing high prices.

Clashes erupted inmore than 20 towns late on Tuesday as demonstrators stormed government buildings, torched cars and attacked police stations.

A Jewish school and a historic synagogue were attacked in Djerba as police focused on curbing unrest elsewhere in the country.

The clashes have led to more than 200 arrests and dozens of injuries as protesters across the country vent their anger over austerity measures. 

"Unknown people took the opportunity of the protests and threw Molotov cocktails into the lobby of a Jewish religious school in Djerba," the head of the local Jewish community, Perez Trabelsi, told Reuters on Wednesday. 

Officials of the historic Ghriba synagogue reported that it had also been firebombed, yet the fire had been contained and no injuries had been reported.

"What happened is violence that we cannot accept. The state will remain steadfast," Prime Minister Youssef Chahed said in a video broadcast by local radio after he visited towns hit by clashes.

Unrest was also reported in the southern city of Gafsa, in Kasserine in central Tunisia and in Sidi Bouzid, the cradle of the protests that sparked the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.

Tunisia has seen several days of demonstrations after activists and politicians denounced hikes in value-added tax and social contributions introduced at the start of the year as a tough new budget was implemented.

Protests are common in the North African state in the month of January, when Tunisians mark the anniversary of the 2011 revolt that unseated dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

The country has been hailed for its relatively smooth democratic transition but seven years after the revolution tensions over economic grievances are high.