Monday, January 10, 2011
TUNIS: Fourteen people were killed in clashes with police in two towns in the past 24 hours, the Tunisian government and Tunisia’s official news agency said Sunday, the deadliest incidents yet in an unprecedented wave of unrest.
The TAP news agency, citing an unidentified official source, said four people had been killed in the town of Rgeb, and a further two people had been killed in the town of Gassrine.
Previously, the government said eight civilians had died in violence overnight and Sunday.
People taking part in the unrest, which has lasted nearly a month, say they are angry at a lack of jobs and investment, but officials say the rioting is the work of a minority of violent extremists intent on damaging Tunisia.
A top opposition figure urged President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali to order security forces to stop using fire arms.
The government said five people have now died as a result of clashes in the town of Thala, about 200 kilometers southwest of the capital, and three people were killed in separate disturbances in the nearby town of Gassrine Sunday.
It said police at both places had faced violent crowds trying to destroy public buildings, and opened fire in self-defense after shots in the air failed to stop rioters.
“[Law enforcement officers] are doing nothing more than carrying out their legal and legitimate mission to maintain order and guarantee the safety and liberty of citizens,” it added.
“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,” it said.
Earlier, at least six residents in Thala who spoke by telephone to Reuters said they had seen several military vehicles enter the town late Saturday.
Nejib Chebbi, founder of Tunisia’s P.D.P. opposition party, said in a statement sent to the media an end to the use of fire arms was needed “to spare the lives of innocent citizens and to respect their right to protest peacefully.” – Reuters