Tunisia Deploys Army in Several Cities as Violent Protests Intensify


Social Affairs Minister Mohamed Trabelsi told reporters that the monthly aid to needy families would rise from 50 euros to 70 euros.

Violent anti-government protests have raged in other towns in the North African country since Monday, among them the tourist resort of Sousse, against price and tax rises imposed by government to cut a ballooning deficit and satisfy worldwide lenders.

Colville said he was concerned about the high number of young people arrested.

The demonstrations broke out ahead of Sunday's seventh anniversary of the toppling of veteran dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in a revolt that sparked uprisings across the Arab region.

"We discussed the general situation in the country and the reforms, especially socioeconomic, that must be adopted to overcome the current problems", said Wided Bouchamaoui, who heads the UTICA employers' federation.

Checks by the United Nations has revealed that no less than 770 protesters have been arrested by Tunisian authorities after almost a week of demonstrations over plans to raise tax and basic goods.

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Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the United Nations human rights office, called for calm and restraint on Friday, and urged Tunisia's government to ensure freedom of peaceful assembly. The Interior Ministry said on Friday it had detained more than 700 people.

One protestor was killed and dozens of government headquarters and institutions were set on fire. The event triggered demonstrations across the country, which eventually spread to others in the Arab world.

The government, however, has vowed to stick to its budget. The governement has responded to anti-austerity protests - some of them violent - by announcing a multi-million euro action plan to help those most in need.

Public anger has been building since January 1, when the government raised the price of gas and other items and hiked social security contributions and taxes on cars, phone calls, internet usage and hotel accommodation.

The leader of Tunisia's main opposition party Popular Front, Hamma Hammami, said they would step up protests until the government changed its "unjust" 2018 budget. Major Khalifa Chibani said arrests included 151 on Thursday, including in the capital, Tunis, Chibani told the state-run Tunis Africa Press Agency, or TAP. Many people face unemployment, with official figures put the unemployment rate at around 15 percent.