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At least 19 killed in riots in Tunisia

Published on Tuesday 11th January 2011 At least 19 killed in riots in Tunisia

An unprecedented wave of violence in Tunisia sparked by high food prices and unemployment has killed at least fourteen people and left many more injured.

One opposition leader, Ahmend Nejib Chebbi, says the death toll is as high as 20 in violence in the neighbouring towns of Tala and Kasserine some 300 kilometres south of the capital, Tunis.

Many of the country's political parties have called on President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to take action and call a halt to police using live ammunition against protestors.

The government says that although it recognises the legitimacy of protests against unemployment, it could not accept attacks on public property.

The interior ministry said two peole were killed on Sunday in Kasserine, bringing to five the number of dead there since Saturday. Five people were killed in Tala and four in Requeb near the town of Sidi Bouzid, 265 kilometres from the capital.

The clashes over the weekend mark the biggest unrest since protests over rising food prices and rampant youth unemployment erupted in mid-December. The protests began after a 26-year-old man, selling fruit and vegetables on the street, set himself on fire after police confiscated his produce. He later died of his injuries.

Chebbi, the leader of the opposition Progressive Democratic Party, PDP, appealed to Ben Ali to call an immediate ceasefire to 'spare the lives of innocent citizens',

The Unionist Democratic Union, an opposition party considered close to the government, also called on the President to take action.

The protests against high unemployment and the high price of basic goods are similar to those in neighbouring Algeria where at least four people have been killed in recent riots.

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