Riots rock Tunisia for fourth consecutive night amid troop deployment

Riots rock Tunisia for fourth consecutive night amid troop deployment
3 min read
19 January, 2021
Riots continued into the early hours of Tuesday, with hundreds of protesters clashing with security forces in cities across Tunisia.
Violent protests have taken place in Tunisia for four nights [AFP]

Riots erupted for a fourth consecutive night in cities across Tunisia and continued into the early hours of Tuesday, with protesters defiant in the face of a large-scale army deployment.

A spokesman for Tunisia’s interior ministry, Khaled Al-Hayouni, told The New Arab’s Arabic-language service that "security operations" were ongoing.

"There have been casualties among security forces, some of whom have received treatment,” he said. Some members of the security forces were injured by stones and Molotov cocktails thrown by rioters.

A spokesman for Tunisia's national guard, Hussam Eddine Aljababli told The New Arab's Arabic-language service that people were arrested in Ettadhamen, a working-class neighbourhood on the edge of the Tunisian capital and Kasserine, a city in westerm Tunisia for "preparing Molotov cocktails and planning acts of vandalism against private and public property".

Armoured vehicles were also sent into Etttadhamen, the site of heavy clashes between rioters and security forces.

Security forces in Carthage, a suburb of Tunis, reopened several key roads that were closed by protesters who had burned tires and waste bins.

In a village in the north east city of Manouba, youths were arrested after attempting to break into the local office of the National Guard, Aljababli said.

In Bizerte, the northernmost city in Africa, security forces were deployed in several areas and protesters were dispersed with tear gas, an eyewitness told The New Arab's Arabic service.

A regional court in the city gave a preliminary jail sentence of two years to eight individuals on a roster of charges, including disturbing public order and contravening a state of emergency.

In Sfax, Tunisia's second largest city, protesters blockaded roads with burning tyres, an AFP correspondent reported. Clashes were also reported in the towns of Gafsa, Le Kaf, Sousse and Monastir.

More than 600 people had been arrested by Monday, according to the interior ministry. Amnesty International has urged security forces to immediately refrain from using excessive force against protesters.

Read more: Tunisia must 'immediately' shun violence against protesters - Amnesty

Two protesters interviewed by the rights group say that police on Monday attacked a peaceful demonstration in downtown Tunis with batons and tear gas and arrested human rights activist Hamza Nassri Jeridi, who had been protesting peacefully before being taken to police headquarters.

Online footage shows police beating and dragging individuals who were arrested and eyewitnesses have shared testimony indicating the ill treatment of people in custody, a press release from Amnesty said.

Amna Guellali, Amnesty International’s Director for the Middle East and North Africa called on Tunisian authorities to immediately release Jeridi and other peaceful protesters, affirming that it was the duty of security forces to "uphold the rights of all people in their custody".

While the exact reasons for the disturbances are a subject of debate, they come at a time of economic crisis, worsened by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has deepened poverty and driven up inflation and unemployment in tourism-reliant Tunisia.

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