Tunisia: Anti-Austerity Protests Turn Deadly

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One protester died in unclear circumstances in Tebourba, a town 40 kilometers west of the capital Tunis.

A third night of unrest has shaken Tunisia where authorities said yesterday more than 600 people have been arrested this week as anger at austerity measures boils over on the streets.

Protests against rising prices and tax increased spread to around 10 towns across the North African country, residents told Reuters. Police said they did not kill him and said he had a respiratory condition, according to The Guardian.

Seven years on, and nine governments later, some of those same problems remain - not helped by a number of terrorist attacks which have damaged Tunisia's tourism industry and foreign investment opportunities.

"The protests are over the cost of living", a demonstrator in Tunis told the BBC.

And more demonstrations are planned in the coming days to mark seven years since the ouster of longtime president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on January 14, 2011.

Leila Ghrairi, 51, a civil servant who came to support the protesters in Tunis, said she was not anxious about another Arab Spring.

Police took to the streets in 20 towns and cities to try and control the violence on Tuesday night, and molotov cocktails were thrown at a Jewish school on the tourist island of Djerba.

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In a number of areas, the army has been called out to back up local security forces and protect government buildings and banks.

The protests continues to sizzle underneath the surface of Tunisia, even after the changes in the Tunisian government following the Arab Spring that led to the ousting of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Unrest was also reported in the southern city of Gafsa, in Kasserine in central Tunisia and in Sidi Bouzid, the cradle of the protests that sparked the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.

The 2018 budget includes price and tax increases effective from Jan 1.

Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed responded to the nationwide protests with a law-and-order speech, declaring Tuesday that "the only recourse against looters of public and private properties and their backers is to enforce the law". One protester died Monday.

A year ago, the government agreed to a four-year loan programme with the International Monetary Fund worth about $2.8bn in return for economic reforms.

Anger has been building up since the government said that, from January 1, it would increase the price of gasoline, some goods, and taxes on cars, phone calls, the internet, hotel accommodation and other items, part of austerity measures agreed with its foreign lenders.