Tunisia: Anti-austerity protests prompt aid package for poor

Protesters shout slogans during protests against rising prices and tax increases in Tunis Tunisia

Protesters shout slogans during protests against rising prices and tax increases in Tunis Tunisia

"People here say that they want to continue to take to the streets in order to put more pressure on the government to scrap the austerity measures", he said.

An anti-austerity youth movement - named Fech Nestannow, which translates as "What are we waiting for?" - has sprung up since the start of the year and is seeking to rally opposition to the measures.

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.

"The people's money is in the palaces, and the children of the people are in the prisons", read one placard.

The North African country has been shaken by a wave of protests over poverty and unemployment during which hundreds were arrested before the unrest tapered off.

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On Friday, police used tear gas to disperse a crowd of demonstrators protesting in the Tunisian city of Sidi Bouzid, considered the epicenter of the Arab Spring in 2011.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khlifa Chibani on Saturday said more than 800 people had been arrested on suspicion of engaging in violent acts during the week's protests, including rioting and looting.

A synagogue was also attacked with a petrol bomb on Tuesday, in what authorities denounced as an act of vandalism linked to the protests, according to TAP.

Some 97 security forces and members of civil protection units were also injured, he said. The protest was attended not less than 12 thousand people.

A man in his 40s died in unrest on Monday night in the northern town of Tebourba, though police have insisted they did not kill him.

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A number of left-wing activists have been arrested by the authorities after officials accused them of fuelling the violence.

Tunisia's main opposition Popular Front has meanwhile called for demonstrations through the week.

While Tunisia is held up by some as the only democratic success story among countries swept up in the Arab Spring, it has had nine governments since Ben Ali's overthrow, none of which have been able to resolve deep-rooted economic problems.

A spokesman for the prime minister in a statement said the protesters were "thugs aged between 17 and 21 who are not affected by the impact of the finance law".

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