Restrictions on trade with Libya spark riots in Tunisia

August 17, 2010
CAIRO — Tunisia has been rocked by riots near the border with Libya.

Security sources said scores of Tunisians attacked police in battles that resulted in several injuries in mid-August. They said the Tunisians had been protesting restrictions on trade with Libya.

“The violence has been going on for several days,” a security source said.

The clashes were reported to have erupted near the Tunisian town of Bin Guerdane about 30 kilometers from the Libyan border. At one point, protesters blocked a highway that connected southern Tunisia with Libya.

This marked a rare outbreak of violence in Tunisia, a pro-Western state in North Africa ruled by President Zein Abedin Bin Ali, 73, for nearly 23 years. The sources stressed that the protests were not political.

Several months ago, Tunisia imposed restrictions and hiked fees to about $100 at the border crossing at Ras Jedir. The move ignited violent protests that included hurling stones at police cars and setting fire to tires.

The Tunisian government has not provided details of the unrest, which continued through Aug. 16. Libya has been a leading trading partner of Tunisia, which has bolstered forces near the border and begun searching for agitators.

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