Tunisian Government Confirms Civilian Casualties
News Wires (text)
Monday, January 10, 2011
France 24, REUTERS -
Protests sparked by high youth unemployment and rising food prices
escalated further over the weekend in Tunisia leaving
at least 14 people dead and several others
wounded, the government has confirmed. By
William EDWARDS (video)
Fourteen civilians have been killed in clashes with Tunisian police,
official media and the government said, in the worst violence in the
country for decades.
The latest incidents, which took place in
three towns and were reported on Sunday, were the deadliest in a wave of
unrest which has lasted nearly a month.
Those taking part say
they are angry at the lack of jobs for young people, but officials say
the rioting is the work of a minority of violent extremists.
the strongest sign to date authorities may be ready to make some
concessions, Tunisia's Communications Minister Samir Labidia said in an
interview broadcast on al Jazeera television that the government would
respond to people's grievances.
He said the government was ready for
a dialogue with young people.
"The message has been received,"
he said. "We are going to review what needs to be reviewed, we are going
to correct what needs to be corrected, but the violence is a red line."
The authorities also released a rap singer who was detained last
week after recording a song critical of the government, the rapper's
family told Reuters.
Police had arrested 22-year-old Hamada
Ben-Amor last Thursday in the Mediterranean Sea coast city of Sfax, soon
after the online release of his song entitled "President, your people
"After three difficult days my brother has returned
to us safely," the rapper's brother, Hamdi Ben-Amor, said on Sunday,
without giving further details.
The government, in statements
issued directly or reported by the official TAP news agency, said a
total of 14 people had been killed in clashes since Saturday night in
the towns of Thala, Gassrine and Rgeb, about 200 km (120 miles) from the
The people who were killed had been armed with petrol
bombs, stones and sticks and were attacking public property, the
government said. Several police officers had also been wounded, some of
them seriously, it said.
"What no democratic state will allow
... is the resort to violence and the use by certain extremists of
prohibited weapons such as Molotov cocktails and fire bombs and the
throwing of stones against people and public and private property," the
Najib Chebbi, who diplomats say is the most
credible leader in Tunisia's weak opposition, said that to avoid more
bloodshed President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali should order security forces
to stop using firearms.
Unrest in the past few days in
neighbouring Algeria over unemployment and food prices has killed two
people and injured hundreds, officials said. There was no evidence of
any link to the Tunisian unrest.
President Ben Ali, in power for more than two decades and re-elected
two years ago with nearly 90 percent of the vote, has said the violent
protests are unacceptable and could discourage investors and tourists
vital to the economy.
The United States has expressed concern
about the government's handling of the protests. There has been no
public response yet from the European Union, which is Tunisia's biggest
Tunisia, a former French colony of about 10
million people, has in the past been praised by Western allies as a
model of stability in the Arab world, though some international rights
groups accuse it of stifling dissent.
Before this weekend's
violence, two people had been killed in the unrest. Another two killed
themselves in acts of protest, including one man who set himself on fire
last month, triggering the series of riots.
President says street protests undermine Tunisian jobs
Protester killed in violent clashes with Tunisian police
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