Tunisian police arrested hundreds of people during several nights of unrest over growing economic hardships and political paralysis a decade after the protests that ignited the Arab Spring uprisings.
The army has deployed troops in several cities, including the capital, to halt the looting of shops and banks and attacks on public buildings.
Defying a curfew imposed to contain the spread of coronavirus, protesters gathered in Tunis while riots rocked cities including Kasserine, Bizerte, Gafsa and Sidi Bouzid, state television reported. Police fired tear gas and water canons against protesters.
Tunisia has had more than 10 governments in the decade since a wave of protests toppled President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali and rippled across the region. Political instability has hampered efforts to reduce youth unemployment and corruption, which were key drivers of the 2011 revolution, while repeated terrorist attacks had hit the tourism industry even before the Covid-19 pandemic depressed global travel last year.
The unrest comes as Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi looks to reshuffle his government. The premier has faced opposition from President Kais Saied, who has devoted much of the year he’s been in office to railing against unspecified conspiracies.
Local broadcaster Mosaique FM quoted the Interior Ministry spokesman as saying 632 people had been arrested.
“This is no way to make legitimate demands heard,” the spokesman, Khaled Al-Hayouni, told the radio station. “The right to protest is legally guaranteed, but sabotage and assaults on public and private property are not acceptable.”