Four people have died in new unrest in the Tunisian capital between stone-throwing protesters and police on the sidelines of demonstrations against the interim government, officials said on Saturday.
The Tunisian interior ministry, in a statement, blamed “provocateurs” for fomenting violence in otherwise peaceful rallies and for allegedly using young people as human shields in renewed demonstrations.
A ministry official, who declined to be named, said another 12 had been injured in the clashes, which he said occurred after a riot orchestrated by loyalists of ousted Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. He said about 100 people had been arrested.
“Those who were arrested have admitted they were pushed by former Ben Ali officials,” he said. “Others said they were paid to do it.”
The ministry said three people had died on Saturday, without elaborating. State TV showed a funeral of a 19-year-old man who was killed on Friday after being shot through the neck during protests on a central avenue.
A witness had earlier seen Tunisian soldiers fire into the air and use tear gas in an effort to disperse dozens of youths, many carrying sticks, who were breaking shop windows near Tunis’ Barcelona Station.
The North African state’s crime rates have soared since a popular uprising toppled Ben Ali on Jan. 14 and security officials often said his supporters are trying to destabilize the country.
The clash followed a large protest on Friday against the make-up of the post-Ben Ali interim government. During that, security forces fired in the air to disperse protesters who burned tires and threw rocks.
Demonstrators fear the interim government has hijacked the revolution that drove Tunisia’s longtime autocrat from power, sending shock waves through the Arab world.
On Saturday, police and troops backed by tanks used tear gas to disperse hundreds of youths protesting against the caretaker government. Officers were seen chasing some youths through town after the rally ended.
Authorities then ordered a temporarily ban on vehicle and pedestrian traffic on the capital’s central Bourguiba Avenue until midnight yesterday.