Eleven arrests as protesters clash with police in central Tunisia

Clashes first erupted on Saturday after a young man self-immolated in the Sidi Bouzid region.

    Tunisia's interior ministry said on Tuesday 11 people were arrested during clashes between protesters and security forces in the central Sidi Bouzid region.

    Protests in the town of Jelma started on Saturday, a day after Abdelwaheb Hablani, 25, set himself on fire in the centre of the town in protest against poverty and poor living conditions. He later died in hospital.

    The incident echoed the 2010 self-immolation of Mohammed Bouazizi, whose death triggered the Arab Spring.

    Khaled Hayouni, a spokesperson for the interior ministry, told the AFP News Agency that residents blocked roads and attacked police on Saturday and Sunday nights.

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    "Youths aged between 11 and 18 attacked law enforcement officers during the night, throwing stones at them and wounding 20 officers," Hayouni said.

    Security forces used tear gas to disperse the protesters.

    "The situation is difficult here. Police are flexing their muscles and they fired tear gas everywhere," Bilel Harzali, a local resident, was quoted as saying by Reuters News Agency.

    "The scene brings to mind the days of the revolution ... People are angry because of the lack of development and the strong security response," he added.

    The Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights expressed "deep concern at the state of social tension in Jelma".

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    This showed the failure of successive governments to devise concrete solutions to unemployment and lack of development in Tunisia's interior, the NGO said. 

    "Ignoring social demands" and reliance on security forces to respond was increasing tension, it warned, calling for a "radical change in economic and social policies".

    In December 2010, the self-immolation of street vendor Bouazizi in Sidi Bouzid sparked the Arab Spring uprisings.

    Since then, numerous young men have followed his example by setting themselves alight in the face of Tunisia's chronic economic difficulties.

    Tunisia is the only country to achieve a peaceful transition to democracy following the 2011 revolts that swept autocrats from power across North Africa and the Middle East.

    But since 2011, Tunisia's economy has been in crisis and successive governments have failed to resolve economic problems, including high inflation, unemployment and corruption.

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    SOURCE: News agencies