More than 200 people were arrested and dozens were injured on Tuesday as a wave of demonstrations continues to shake several cities in Tunisia following new austerity measures resulting from the 2018 Finance bill, which is expected to increase the cost of living.
In Thala, near the Algerian border, troops were sent in after protesters burned down the national security building, forcing police to retreat from the town, witnesses said.
Demonstrations broke out in the North African country Sunday spreading since then to more than 20 towns as people protest against new tax and price increases imposed by the government on January 1 to reduce a ballooning deficit and satisfy foreign lenders.
Tunisia has seen days of street protests against hikes in value-added tax and social security contributions introduced earlier this month as the government grapples with a growing budget deficit and the need to meet its foreign debt obligations.
But Prime Minister Chahed says this will be the last bad year for Tunisians.
Interior Ministry spokesperson Khalifa Chibani said Thursday that the 328 arrested overnight are accused of destroying property, looting and theft.
Rejecting that accusation, Tunisia's main opposition bloc, the Popular Front, called for a major protest in Tunis on Sunday to coincide with the seventh anniversary of Ben Ali's fall.
Picture: A protester is detained by Tunisian security forces.
Police responded by firing tear gas at the demonstrators.
Protestors have also attacked police stations and government buildings. The Tunisian government allows the demonstrations to release steam, while at the same time trying to promote reforms to improve the economy.
On the island of Djerba in the southeast of the country, a Jewish school was attacked by young protesters wearing hoods. They have been more conciliatory in the past and given some concessions.
In Kasserine, Raja Jassoumi, 33, a project manager with a nonprofit, said people had to be budget-conscious even when buying a loaf of bread, "so when you announce the increase of prices on fuel and other goods, it is the straw that broke the camel's back". Often hailed as the biggest democratic success story of the countries involved in the Arab Spring, Tunisia has experienced regular protests since 2011 as its comparatively liberated populace has tried to make itself heard. And Tunisians, especially in smaller towns where unemployment is high and the economic outlook is grim, have been active in expressing their discontent.