Tunisia deploys army to quell violent protests

Tunisian lawyers demonstrate against the government's proposed new taxes, near the courthouse in Tunis, Tunisia December 6, 2016. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi
Tunisian lawyers demonstrate against the government’s proposed new taxes, near the courthouse in Tunis, Tunisia December 6, 2016. REUTERS

Over 300 protesters were arrested overnight and the army was deployed in several Tunisian cities to help contain violent demonstrations over unemployment. Protesters are also angry over price and tax increases imposed by government to cut a ballooning deficit and satisfy international lenders.

Troops were sent to Thala, near the Algerian border, after protesters burned down the national security building forcing police to retreat from the town, witnesses said. The army was also deployed in several other cities, including Sousse, Kebeli and Bizert to protect government buildings that have become a target for protesters.

“Three hundred and thirty people involved in acts of sabotage and robbery were arrested last night,” interior Ministry spokesman Khelifa Chibani said.

The latest arrests bring the number of detainees since the protests began to around 600.

Much of the violence began on Monday. Police fired tear gas to disperse crowds in Tunis and Tebourba, a small town outside the capital where one protestor had been killed.  A Jewish school on a Tunisian island that is home to an ancient Jewish community was attacked late on Tuesday. On Wednesday night, police clashed with anti-government protesters in at least five towns.

Prime Minister Youssef Chahed on Wednesday accused the opposition of fueling dissent by calling for more protests.

Uprisings in 2011 and two major militant attacks in 2015 damaged foreign investment and tourism, which accounts for eight percent of Tunisia’s economic activity.