Tunisia was rocked by a fourth night of street clashes between riot police and youths in mostly working class neighbourhoods, and there were calls on social media for more rallies on Tuesday.
More than 600 people had been arrested by Monday over the disturbances in which teenagers and adolescents have hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails at police who have fired volleys of teargas at them.
The social unrest comes at a time of economic crisis, worsened by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the tourism-reliant North African country, that has deepened poverty and driven up inflation and unemployment.
In the latest unrest until the early hours of Tuesday, hundreds of youths in the capital battled police in several districts including the vast Ettadhamen city on the outskirts of Tunis. In Sfax, the second largest city, protesters blockaded roads with burning tyres, an AFP correspondent reported. Clashes were also reported in the towns of Gafsa, Le Kef, Bizerte, Kasserine, Sousse and Monastir.
Tunisia has seen growing tensions in recent months due to the country's deep social and economic crises.
A stagnating economy and sky-high unemployment — as much as a third among the youth — have been worsened by the coronavirus pandemic. A tight four-day lockdown went into effect on Thursday, aimed at curbing the North African country's spiralling Covid-19 caseload.
An 8:00pm curfew already in place was brought forward to 4:00 pm, and police were deployed to enforce the measures — further ratcheting up the tension.
‘You can't just lock up young people, some of whom usually go home only to sleep,’ said analyst Selim Kharrat.
For three consecutive nights from Friday, young people have burned tyres and battled police, exchanging rocks and Molotov cocktails for volleys of teargas.
Tunisia often sees protests in January, which coincides with several key anniversaries including longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's fall from power which this year fell on Thursday.
But all such gatherings are currently banned.
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