Tunisian soldiers fire on protesters

Several demonstrators injured in a protest over lack of jobs in the southern town of Tozeur.

    Violence between protesters and police erupted in Tunis on Friday, ahead of shootings in Tozeur the next day [AFP]

    Tunisian soldiers have fired in the air to disperse demonstrators in the southern town of Tozeur, injuring several people, a witness said.

    About 50 unemployed workers had gathered on Saturday outside the local government offices in the town demanding to see the governor to voice their anger about a lack of jobs, Imed Bedoui, a union worker, said.

    When the governor refused to meet the young men and women, they tried to storm the building and soldiers opened fire, he said.

    "Soldiers fired to disperse the demonstrators and some people were injured, one seriously," Bedoui said by phone.

    "He was hit in the chest. I took him myself to hospital. He was in [a] very serious condition."

    Government officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

    The previous day, police in the capital fired tear gas at a group of an estimated 1,000 demonstrators, some of whom were throwing stones and burning tyres.

    Quoting the interior ministry, the national news agency TAP said no one had been injured in Friday's clashes, which came after earlier peaceful demonstrations in Tunis, the capital.

    Protesters held two parallel demonstrations in the neighbourhood of the Kasbah, one by a group demanding more economic freedoms and the other by young Islamists shouting "God is great" and other religious slogans.

    Many protesters said security forces continue to act in a repressive manner and words of reforms have not been converted into action.

    "There is no change, the people and their understanding of freedom has changed, but the government has not changed and is not attempting to change itself," Wajdi Saeed, one of the protesters in the Kasbah, said on Friday.

    The violence in Tozeur and Tunis disrupts a period of relative calm since the popular revolt that ended the autocratic rule of president Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali.

    Ben Ali was toppled when rolling mass protests forced him to flee to Saudi Arabia on January 14, ending 23 years in power.

    Interim authorities have struggled to restore stability, but last month laid out a plan for a transition to democracy.

    Tunisia's interim authorities appointed a new government on March 7 and disbanded much of the state security apparatus, notorious for human rights abuses under Ben Ali.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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