Middle East

Tunisians set fire to police station, cars in border town protest

A partially burnt police car is pictured in Ben Guerdane, after a protest in southeast of Tunis, January 11, 2013. REUTERS/Mohamed Amine ben Aziza

TUNIS: Hundreds of Tunisian protesters demanding jobs and the reopening of a border crossing with Libya set fire to a police station and cars, and police used teargas and fired shots into the air to disperse them on Friday, a Reuters witness said.

Protesters in Ben Guerdane want the Ras Jedir crossing reopened so that trade with Libya, on which most of the population depend, can start again.

Tunisian and Libyan authorities opened the crossing briefly on Thursday but shut it because of the security threat. Four days of protests in Ben Guerdane turned violent on Thursday.

"Protesters burned police stations overnight ... now police are chasing them and firing teargas and shots into the air to disperse them," a Reuters photographer in Ben Guerdane said.

Tunisia's Islamist-led government has sought to revive the economy hit by a decline in trade with Europe and by disputes between secularists and hardline Salafi Islamists over policy in the North African state, the cradle of the Arab Spring.

Two years after the revolution that toppled Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali, increasing numbers of Tunisians are staging street protests to demand jobs and economic development.

Last month clashes between protesters and police in the northwest town of Siliana wounded more than 220 people.

Two years ago, street peddler Mohamend Bouazizi burned himself to death two years ago in despair at the confiscation of his fruit cart in Sidi Bouzid, sparking an uprising in Tunisia that spread to Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria and Bahrain.





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