300 arrested in third night of Tunisia's violent protests

300 arrested in third night of Tunisia's violent protests

A man was killed during a protest against government austerity measures in Tebourba, 40 km (25 miles) west of Tunis, the interior ministry said in a statement.

Dozens of police officers have been injured and more than 200 people arrested as wide-scale protests in Tunisia over rising prices and austerity measures entered their fourth day on Thursday, media reports said.

Anti-government protests have flared in a number of Tunisian cities and towns - including the tourist resort of Sousse, since Monday against price and tax rises imposed to cut a ballooning deficit and satisfy worldwide lenders.

The paper says January protests have recurred in Tunisia since the death of street-seller Mohamed Bouazizi in 2011 provoked a nationwide wave of anger that led to the overthrow of authoritarian leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and kick-started the Arab Spring. One protester has died, and Prime Minister Youssef Chahed has called for calm.

Police and military forces have been deployed in several cities to prevent demonstrations turning violent. "People have to understand that Tunisia faces many challenges, but 2018 will be the last hard year for the Tunisians", he said.

A lack of tourists and new foreign investors pushed Tunisia's trade deficit up by 23.5 percent year-on-year in the first 11 months of 2017 to a record $5.8 billion, official data showed at the end of December.

Similar clashes were seen in the impoverished inland regions of Kasserine and Jelma, near Sidi Bouzid, where protests, which sparked the 2011 Arab Spring uprising that removed Ben Ali, started.

Demonstrations have broken out in the capital and other towns, with protesters blocking roads and throwing stones at police, who responded with rubber bullets, according to Mosaique FM radio.

The main opposition party had hours earlier called for protests to continue until the government scrapped what it called an unjust 2018 budget including price and tax hikes.

Police have insisted they did not kill the man.

Olfa Lamloum, the Tunisia country manager for International Alert, a nonprofit that seeks peaceful resolution to conflicts, said she anxious "that we have the same narrative as before the revolution". But the country's political progress has not been matched by economic growth and has failed to provide jobs or a better standard of living for young Tunisians. 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.

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