Over 800 inmates escape Tunisian prisons

Tunisian islamists are calling for the resignation of Tunisia`s Minister of religious Affairs.

Updated: Apr 30, 2011, 16:42 PM IST

Tunis: More than 800 inmates
escaped on Saturday from two Tunisian prisons after fires were set
in cells, the official news agency said.

Soldiers and security forces quickly fanned out in a
search of the fugitives and at least 35 were caught within
hours, TAP said, citing military sources.

TAP reported that 522 inmates from the prison in
Kasserine escaped after a fire in two cells, and another 300
inmates escaped from the Gafsa prison.

The two towns are both in Tunisia`s centre-west
region, some 150 kilometres (about 95 miles) apart. Personnel
at the prison in Gafsa were on strike at the time, likely
making the mass exodus by inmates easier.

The North African nation has been hit by social unrest
since the country`s long-time autocratic ruler was ousted Jan.
14 in an uprising.

Some 11,000 inmates escaped from Tunisian prisons
shortly after Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled into exile. Of
those, several thousand have been caught and nearly 2,000
turned themselves in after the Justice Ministry warned the
escape could worsen their cases, TAP reported.

Earlier, in the capital Tunis, police fired tear gas
at hundreds of Islamists protesting what they said were
offensive comments toward Islam by two teachers.

Protesters chanted "God is Great," and carried banners
including one reading "We do not pardon those who insult the

Several hours of peaceful protest degenerated when
some demonstrators sought to take on police, who immediately
fired tear gas.

The demonstration on the main Avenue Bourguiba was the
latest since Ben Ali was brought down, hounded out of the
country by protesters angry over unemployment, corruption and
repression. Tunisia`s uprising prompted protests around the
Arab world.