One dead and more than 200 arrested in Tunisia protests

Hundreds arrested in week of Tunisia unrest as clashes continue

Tunisian police firing rubber bullets and tear gas clashed with mobs protesting surging prices in the capital, as increasingly violent demonstrations test a government struggling to put its finances in order and attract investors.

Khelifa Chibani, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said 44 people had been arrested for carrying weapons such as knives, ´setting government buildings on fire and looting shops.

A Jewish school on a Tunisian island that is home to an ancient Jewish community was attacked late on Tuesday, witnesses said.

Interior Ministry Spokesman Khalifa Chibani told local radio that 49 police officers were wounded during clashes across the North African country and that 206 "troublemakers" were arrested.

There were conflicting reports over the cause of death, with some protesters saying the man had been run down by a police vehicle, while the authorities denied and claimed he had been overcome by tear gas.

Several days of peaceful protests escalated on Monday night as youths began burning tires to block streets and went on to clash with security forces. Troops were deployed to protect government buildings on January 10 after demonstrators burned down a national security building in Thala, near the Algerian border.

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"The state will listen to civilized protests", he said, noting that Prime Minister Youssef al-Chahed will announce in due course measures that will complement the social action.

But public anger has been building since January 1, when the government raised the price of petrol and other items and hiked social security contributions and taxes on cars, phone calls, internet usage and hotel accommodation. Hazem Chikhaoui, a 22-year-old student representative in Tunis, said the security forces were "aiming to terrorise and silence protesters through systematic violence".

About 300 people demonstrated in the streets of the central Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid, the center of the country's Arab Spring revolution. But nine successive governments have failed to get a grip on the economic situation.

The demonstrations have so far been much smaller than others in recent years.

Almost a week of sometimes violent protests across the country followed the announcement of austerity measures in this year's budget, which took effect on January 1.

The protests broke out after activists and politicians denounced increases in Value-Added Tax and the introduction of social contributions at the start of the year as a tough new budget was implemented.

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