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Violence continues throughout Tunisia

01-15-2011 13:12 BJT

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Although Tunisia's President has fled his country, the unrest has not eased. Some witnesses say the army has been called in to restore order, after a security vacuum left by the leader's departure was exploited by looters and gangs.

Residents in the capital say groups have been marauding through neighborhoods, setting fire to buildings, attacking people, and damaging property.

Tunisian Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi has gone on state television to announce that he's assuming power in the country.

Mohamed Ghannouchi, Tunisian Prime Minister, said, "(The procedure) is for him to hand over power to the First Minister, and taking into account that it's not possible for the President to carry out his duties, temporarily I will take over, as of this minute, the full responsibilities of the President."

Although the biggest protests tapered off after the Prime Minister's announcement, gunshots could still be heard in the center of Tunis, along with the sound of tear gas grenades being fired, while helicopters patrolled overhead, and acrid smoke hung in the air.

Some media outlets are reporting that, on nearly every block in the capital's suburbs, people have been standing on the streets with baseball bats to protect their property from damage by looters.

Earlier on Friday, the nation experienced its largest demonstrations in generations.

After days of violence that spread from provincial towns to the largest metropolis, dozens of individuals were dead, and security forces struggled to contain angry young agitators. A state of emergency has been declared, and a dusk-to-dawn curfew placed into effect.

It remains to be seen whether protesters will accept Ghannouchi's interim leadership, due to his close association with Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Some protesters claim that demonstrations will soon resume.

In live telephone interview, the Prime Minister swore that everything possible is being done to restore order.

He told Tunisians he will meet with representatives of various political parties, in an attempt to form a coalition government.

The raging violence and rapid turn of events continue to send shock waves across the Arab world, where some longtime rulers face mounting pressure from growing young populations, economic hardships, and the rise of militant Islam.



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