TUNISIA: Protester killed as anti-government demonstrations escalate

One person was killed and others injured when Tunisia’s National Guard members opened fire on angry protesters in the town of Menzel Bouzaiene over the weekend.

State-run news agency TAP quoted an unnamed security official as saying that guard members were forced to use their weapons in self-defence after “a group of individuals set ablaze a railway engine and set fire to three National Guard vehicles, before raiding the city’s National Guard station.”

The source added that several National Guard members were burned, including two who fell into a coma. Mohamed Fadel, leader of the secondary school union in Menzel Bouzaiene, identified the man who died as Mohamed Ammari, 18.

“Several thousands took part in the riot. Many arrests have been made and the whole town, which is located in the governorate of Sidi Bouzid, has been sealed off by security officers,” Fadel told AFP.

The death comes as riots and demonstrations against unemployment and poor living conditions entered their ninth day in Sidi Bouzid. Unrest scattered across the region after the suicide attempts of two young persons last week.

University graduate Mohamed Bouazizi set himself aflame to protest police officers’ confiscation of fruits and vegetables he was selling in a streetside stand; Nagi Felhi electrocuted himself after growing desperate due to his failure to land a job.

Hundreds of locals took their dismay to the streets of a number of towns across the region, and Ammari’s death has prompted similar marches in the capital.

Several hundred activists and students demonstrated in Tunis to show solidarity with Sidi Bouzid protesters on Saturday, carrying banners reading “shame on the government” and “we deserve jobs.”

“This march is a message to our brothers in Sidi Bouzid. We tell them that they are not alone and that their demands are legitimate,” said Soliman Rouissi, who’s a member of a worker’s union.

In a failed attempt to calm tensions in the region, Tunisian Development Minister Nohamed Nouri Jouini traveled to Sidi Bouzid on Thursday to announce a new $10-million employment program.

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