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Tunisia declares nationwide curfew after violent job protests

Tunis: Tunisia declared a nationwide curfew on Friday after four days of protests and rioting over jobs and economic conditions, the worst unrest since the country gave birth to the Arab Spring five years ago.

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Tunisia declares curfew after violent protests

Tunisia has declared a state of emergency after days of rioting over jobs and economic conditions. It's the worst unrest since the uprising five years ago that toppled autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Hailed for the sole peaceful outcome from the string of revolutions, the small North African state has suffered seen large crowds on the streets in recent days protesting over unemployment and rising poverty. Trouble began last weekend when an unemployed 28-year-old man who had missed out on a government job was electrocuted as he climbed a pylon during a demonstration in the central city of Kasserine.

His death drew parallels with that of a young market vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, who set fire to himself in December 2010, prompting the protests that ultimately led to the overthrow of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia's long-serving dictator.

Police forces stand by tear gas during clashes in the city of Ennour, near Kasserine, Tunisia.
Police forces stand by tear gas during clashes in the city of Ennour, near Kasserine, Tunisia. Photo: AP

There were further demonstrations on Friday in several regions Sfax, Kairouan, Sousse - the beach resort that was the site of a terrorist attack last year - and Sidi Bouzid, where Mr Bouazizi died. In Tunis, demonstrators blocked a major thoroughfare and burned tyres in the street.

At least 19 people were arrested in the capital in connection with the unrest, a security official said.

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Tunisia has been held up as a model for democratic progress since the 2011 revolution that toppled Mr Ben Ali. But there has been rising discontent over a lack of jobs and high living costs, especially in the country's interior.

There is also concern over attacks by Islamist militants, including an assault on a beach resort in June that killed 39.

Tunisians celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Arab Spring on Thursday in Tunis.
Tunisians celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Arab Spring on Thursday in Tunis.  Photo: AP

The Interior Ministry said in a statement that due to the risk to public and private property from the protests it was imposing a curfew from 8pm to 5am with immediate effect.

They have seen demonstrators storm local government buildings and clash with riot police. One policeman has been killed and dozens injured.

Tunisia has declared a nationwide curfew after clashes between police and more than 1000 young protesters in Ennour ...
Tunisia has declared a nationwide curfew after clashes between police and more than 1000 young protesters in Ennour demanded more jobs.  Photo: AP

Police stations have been attacked with petrol bombs and stones, while banks and shops have been looted and car tyres set alight by crowds chanting: "Work, freedom, dignity." 

Demonstrators stormed local government buildings and clashed with riot police. Security forces have responded with tear gas. At least 40 officers have been injured and one policeman died after being lynched by demonstrators.

"It's been seven years of no work for me," said one protester, Samir, 30. "We're sick of just promises. We won't go back to our homes until we get something concrete this time... We just want to live with dignity."

Many of the protesters are believed to be university graduates, who make up a third of Tunisia's unemployed. Since the 2011 revolution, unemployment rates have risen from 12 per cent to more than 15 per cent, and the important tourism sector has been devastated by terror attacks backed by Islamic State.

June's attack in Sousse left 38 people dead, including 30 Britons. France, the former colonial power, has promised Tunisia €1 billion in aid over five years to try to kick-start its economy.

Tunisia has emerged as the biggest exporter of Islamist jihadists of any Muslim country. At least 2400 Tunisians have travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight with IS since 2011.

Reuters, Telegraph London

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