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18 arrested in Tunisia amid violent protests

Tunisian Police officers patrol after clashes in the streets of Kasserine, southern of Tunisia, Tuesday, Dec 25, 2018.The death of a Tunisian journalist Abderrak Zorgui who set himself on fire to protest economic problems in the North African nation prompted a protest that led to clashes with police and nationwide concern. (AP Photo/Mohamed Ben Salah)

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Tunisian authorities have arrested 18 people during protests that erupted after the death of a journalist who set himself on fire to protest economic problems in the North African nation, officials said Wednesday.

Thirteen were arrested in the provincial city of Kasserine and five others in Tebourba, near Tunis, Interior Ministry spokesman Sofiane Zaag said.

Clashes between protesters and Tunisian authorities took place in several regions over the past two days after journalist Abderrazak Zorgui posted a video online before his self-immolation in Kasserine describing his desperation and calling for revolt. He expressed frustration at unemployment and the unfulfilled promises of Tunisia’s 2011 Arab Spring revolution.

The most violent protests took place in Kasserine, in west central Tunisia, where police used tear gas to disperse stone-throwing demonstrators. According to ShemsFM radio, the military was deployed to help police tackle the protests and secure state buildings.

In Tunis, dozens of protesters gathered on Bourguiba Avenue — the capital city’s main road — to protest costs of living increases and chanted slogans hostile to the regime.

Meanwhile, Kasserine tribunal spokesman Achref Youssefi said an investigation “for failure to assist a person in danger” has been opened following the death of Zorgui. He said a suspect has been arrested.

A similar self-immolation, by a street vendor lamenting unemployment, corruption and repression, led to nationwide protests fueled by social media that brought down Tunisia’s long-time authoritarian president in 2011. That ushered in democracy for Tunisia and unleashed similar movements around the Arab world.

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