Tunis: Tunisian authorities struggled to restore order Sunday, arresting the top presidential security chief and trying to stop gunfights that erupted across the capital. One clash broke out around the deposed president's palace on the Mediterranean shore, another near the headquarters of the main opposition party.
Observers worldwide were looking to see which way the North African nation would turn as its new leadership sought to tamp down the looting, arson and random violence that has taken place since autocratic President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia on Friday. The nation was in the midst of an unprecedented power shift for the Arab world.
Tensions appeared to be mounting between Tunisians buoyant over Ben Ali's departure and loyalists in danger of losing major perks. Tunisian police made dozens of arrests, some for drive-by shootings on buildings and people in the capital, Tunis.
The security chief Ali Seriati and his deputy were charged with a plot against state security, aggressive acts and for "provoking disorder, murder and pillaging," the TAP state news agency reported.
To cheers and smiles, some residents of Tunis tore down massive portraits of Ben Ali that were omnipresent during his reign, hanging on lampposts and billboards, gazing down over shops and hotels. Some stretched several stories high.
A gunbattle broke out around the presidential palace, two residents said. Presidential guards loyal to deposed President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali were involved in the shootout in Carthage on the Mediterranean shore, about 15 kilometers (10 miles) north of the capital, Tunis. The residents spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity out of fears for their security.
Carthage residents have barricaded themselves inside their homes amid the shooting.
Other gunfights broke out near the PDP opposition party headquarters and near the dreaded Interior Ministry.
First Published: Monday, January 17, 2011, 00:31