Suicide ignites clashes in tense Tunisian town

Last Updated: Thursday, December 23, 2010 - 09:19

Tunis: Police in a central Tunisian town fired tear gas at stone-throwing protesters after simmering tensions linked to unemployment erupted after a demonstrator committed suicide on Wednesday night.

The victim was a 24-year-old jobless protester who was electrocuted after announcing he wanted to end his life and mounting a high-voltage electricity pole in the town of Sidi Bouzid, Attia Athmouni of the PDP opposition party said.

The state news agency TAP reported the suicide and said the government ordered a judicial inquiry.

The suicide angered young protesters, who hurled stones at police and were met by volleys of tear gas. Protesters in a nearby town set an administrative building on fire, said Mohamed Ben Fadhel, a local leader of a teachers` union.

Sidi Bouzid was the site of protests in recent days following a suicide attempt by a fruit and vegetable merchant whose merchandise was seized by local authorities. It is about 265 kilometres (165 miles) south of the capital Tunis.

The 26-year-old merchant, who tried to set himself on fire, has a university diploma but has been unable to find work other than as a street merchant, according to opposition politicians. The high level of unemployment in the region, including among people with diplomas, has been at the heart of the tensions.

Such overt clashes are rare in Tunisia, a popular tourist destination on the Mediterranean where the government brooks little dissent and is routinely criticised for its human rights record.

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First Published: Thursday, December 23, 2010 - 09:19

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