Three dead as fresh clashes rock Tunisia capital

The demonstrators are demanding the resignation of the interim PM Ghannouchi.

Tunis: Three people were killed in clashes between anti-government demonstrators and security forces in Tunisia`s capital on Saturday, the government said, after a second day of unrest in the city.

Riot police and masked police forces in civilian clothes earlier fired warning shots and tear gas at hundreds of protesters, some of whom responded by hurling stones, a report said.

"Three people died from the dozen who were wounded during clashes and were transferred to hospital for treatment," the Interior Ministry said in a statement. The description suggested the dead were demonstrators.

"Several members of the security forces were wounded to different degrees," it said without giving a number.

The demonstration during which a loud blast and automatic weapons fire was heard followed a similar protest in the capital on Friday demanding the resignation of the interim Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi.

Ghannouchi was part of the regime of president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali who was dramatically toppled on January 14 following weeks of demonstrations over unemployment and high living costs.

The fall of the authoritarian ruler after 23 years in power sparked similar uprisings in the Arab world, including one that led to the downfall of long-time Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak on February 11 and another under way in Libya.

The Interior Ministry said more than 100 people were arrested for involvement in the clashes on Saturday and 88 people on Friday.

It blamed the violence on "agitators" it said had infiltrated peaceful demonstrators.

They had used students "as human shields to carry out violent acts, fires aimed at sowing terror among the people and targeting the internal security forces", the statement said.

Security forces chased protesters through the streets on Saturday after about 300 demonstrators chanting anti-government slogans gathered for the fresh protest outside the Interior Ministry.

The unrest saw protesters tearing up billboards and city benches in an attempt to block police vehicles, a report said.

Soldiers arrived at the scene to back up police.

An estimated 100,000 protesters marched down the capital`s main avenue on Friday shouting "Ghannouchi Leave" and "Revolution Until Victory".

It was the biggest of several rallies against the transitional authority since the fall of Ben Ali. Clashes left 21 police officers injured and three police stations damaged, according to the ministry.

Blaming Friday`s unrest on young people and students, the ministry said: "We call on parents to discourage their children from participating in this type of demonstration, to encourage them to return to classes and to do everything to avoid that they serve as human shields for groups of trouble-makers."

In response to growing protests, the interim government, which was established in the days after Ben Ali fled, announced on Friday that it would hold elections by mid-July.

Ghannouchi`s caretaker government has faced regular protests demanding it root out vestiges of the old regime.

In a separate development, over 38,000 people, mainly Tunisians and Egyptians, have fled Libya across Tunisia`s main Ras Jedir border since the start of the exodus a week ago, an official said.

The number included 18,000 Tunisians, 15,000 Egyptians, 2,500 Libyans and 2,500 Chinese, Colonel Malek Mihoub of the Civil Protection authority said.

Bureau Report

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