The Tunisian government said Jan. 10 that 14 had been killed in unrest over the weekend in the western towns of Kasserine, Regueb and Thala, while labor and opposition leaders put the figure at 25. Authorities claim the police opened fire on protesters in self-defense. The government has ordered the closure of schools and universities across the country until further notice. Protesters have attacked public buildings and local offices of the party of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who has ruled since taking power in a bloodless coup in 1987.
The protests have caused a diplomatic flap between Tunis and Washington. Last week, US State Department spokesman PJ Crowley urged all sides in Tunisia to show restraint, saying Tunisians should enjoy the right to demonstrate publicly. He also expressed concerns about a crackdown on social media in Tunisia. He said the US had summoned Tunisia’s ambassador to express these concerns. In return, Tunisian Foreign Ministry official Saida Chtioui summoned Washington’s ambassador to Tunis, Gordon Gray, to express authorities’ “surprise” at the US reaction, the official TAP news agency said. (RTTNews, AP, Jan. 10)
See our last post on the struggle in Tunisia.