Hundreds arrested in Tunisia on third night of violent protests


More than 300 protesters have been arrested and the army deployed in several Tunisian cities after violent demonstrations swept the country for a third night despite the threat of a security crackdown. In Thala, near the Algerian border, troops were sent in after protesters burned down the national security building, forcing police to retreat from the town, witnesses said.

Anti-government protests have raged in towns across Tunisia since Monday, including the tourist resort of Sousse. The immediate cause of the unrest is government-imposed price and tax rises, which will raise the cost of basic goods but are said to be essential to cut a ballooning deficit and satisfy international lenders. Longer-term factors include high levels of poverty and youth unemployment, particularly among graduates.

While Tunisia is widely seen as the only democratic success story among Arab spring states, it has had nine governments since the overthrow of the authoritarian leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, none of which have resolved the growing economic problems.

“Some 330 people involved in acts of sabotage and robbery were arrested last night,” said the interior ministry spokesman, Khelifa Chibani, bringing the number of detainees since the protests began to about 600.(theguardian)…[+]