Tunisia Deploys Army in Several Cities as Violent Protests Intensify

A riot policemen hide behind a wall during anti-government protests in Tunis

Still, activists and the opposition called for fresh protests on Sunday, the seventh anniversary of the toppling of Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, the first leader to fall in the 2011 Arab Spring protests that swept the region.

An AFP correspondent in the northern town of Siliana said police fired tear gas at dozens of youths who pelted them with stones during skirmishes that lasted around three hours overnight.

Authorities said Friday the number of people detained in the wave of violent protests had risen to almost 800, after a provincial town was hit by a night of unrest over the austerity measures.

Several police stations have been set on fire.

Tunisia will expand aid for poor families and needy people such as pensioners by about $70m, Minister of Social Affairs Mohamed Trabelsi told reporters in Tunis on Saturday.

The protests draw on anger over price and tax increases included in this year's budget that took effect on 1 January.

He also said reforms that have been in the pipeline for several months would guarantee medical care for all Tunisians and also provide housing to disadvantaged families. Interior Ministry spokesman Khlifa Chibani on Saturday said more than 800 people had been arrested on suspicion of engaging in violent acts during the week's protests, including rioting and looting.

"It's a very advanced legal project, which was submitted to parliament and will be discussed over the next week", said a government source who requested anonymity. "It will help the poor and middle class".

That revolution was sparked by high unemployment and worries about corruption.

Rafik listed the main priorities of the current government for the year 2018, include promoting foreign investment, improving living conditions of citizens, as well as creating employment opportunities aimed at young people. The IMF gave the country a $2.9bn (£2.2bn) loan in 2015.

January 3, 2018: The Popular Front, a coalition of leftist parties, calls for "peaceful protests" against the austerity measures and mounting inflation.

What is the government reaction?

Essebsi also accused some foreign media "exaggerating" Tunisia's social unrest, and undermining Tunisia's global image. The organization said he died after a police vehicle ran him over twice but Tunisia's Ministry of Interior said that he had suffocated to death from tear gas because he had a chronic respiratory condition.

"These media freedom violations by representatives of the se-curity forces are unacceptable in a democratic country such as Tunisia", said Yasmine Kacha, the head of RSF's North Africa bureau.

The UN's human rights office expressed concern on Friday over the large numbers being detained.

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