Four hurt in fresh Tunisia clashes – sources

TUNIS, Jan 7 (Reuters) – Four people were hospitalised with gunshot wounds after protesters clashed with police in a Tunisian town on Friday, a hospital source and victims’ relatives said, in the latest in a spate of riots.

Officials declined a request to provide a comment on the clashes, which took place in the town of Rgeb, about 210 km (130 miles) west of the capital.

Tunisia’s government says a minority of extremists trying to harm the country is behind the wave of unrest.

A hospital source in Rgeb, who did not want to be identified, told Reuters by telephone: “We received four people who had wounds from hunting rifles. The injuries are to their faces, chests and hands.”

The hospital source said three of the four had been transferred to hospital in the city of Sfax, but gave no details on their condition.

Relatives of two of the wounded men, Walid Missaoui and Zied Gasmi, told Reuters by telephone that the two had been hospitalised after they were wounded in clashes earlier in the day in Rgeb between police and protesters.

Violent unrest has broken out in several Tunisian towns over the past three weeks. Protesters have said they are angered at a lack of jobs and say the government should invest more in raising living standards.

Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali has said the violent protests are unacceptable and could harm Tunisia’s interests by discouraging investors and tourists who provide a large part of the country’s revenues.

Tunisian authorities say police have only used force where necessary to stop protesters endangering life and ransacking government buildings.

The United States has called in Tunisia’s ambassador in Washington to receive a formal expression of concern about the protests, a State Department official said on Friday.

Protests have been rare in Tunisia, which has had only two presidents since independence from France 55 years ago. The country has in the past been praised by Western allies as a model of stability and prosperity in the Arab world.

Rgeb is near the town of Sidi Bouzid, where the spate of riots first broke out last month after a young man set fire to himself in a protest against the authorities.

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