Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Total number of dead in Tunisia well over 50, chaos in Kasserine due to attacks by security forces

 Protesters bring down a big poster of president Ben Ali. Similar scenes were to be seen all over Tunisia the last few days, underlining the fact that the days of Ben Ali's regime may be umbered after these weeks of protest.

Updated: At least 35 people have been killed in the riots that erupted over the weekend in Tunisia, the president of the International Federation for Human Rights said on Tuesday.
"We have a list of the names of the 35," Souhayr Belhassen told AFP. "The total figure is higher. It's somewhere around 50, but that's an estimate."
The Paris-based FIDH is a global federation of 164 human rights groups and is following events in Tunisia closely through a network of local monitors.
Political protests broke out in Tunisia last month after a 26-year-old graduate set himself on fire in protest after police seized the farm produce he was trying to sell to make a living.
More fierce riots erupted at the weekend, triggering a tough crackdown by Tunisian authorities, amid calls from the United States and the European Union for President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's regime to show restraint.
Belhassen -- who is herself Tunisian -- said the death toll had "increased tragically" since weekend protests in the Regueb, Thala et Kasserine areas, and that so many had been wounded that "they can't be counted."
Before these riots, the death toll was estimated at four, including two suicides, and the security forces stand accused of using excessive force.

In the meantime the death toll has risen much further. The government announced four  more dead in the region Kasserine (300km tot the south from Tunis) and eight wounded among the security forces.  The interior ministery said in a statement that in the cities Ennour and Ezzouhour people with fire bombs, sticks and iron bars had attacked police stations among other buildings and did not stop after warning shots had been fired.
Sadok Mahmoudi, of the trade union UCTT (Union générale de travailleurs Tunisiens), said however that the situation in Kasserine could be qualified as complete chaos, after a night in which snipers fired from the roofs and houses and bussinesses had been looted and pillaged by armed units of the security fprces, which after that withdrew.
His story was confirmed by others. Mokhtar Trifi of the Tunisian Ligue of Human rights, said that the acts of
 the snipers and the looting seemed to have been staged by the authorities to give credibility to the claims by the government that the unrest is caused by looters and people with criminal intent. Also Trifi characterized the the situation as chaotic. Both Trifi and Mahmoudi said that the number of dead must be well over 50 by now, but that it was impossible to to give exact numbers because of the present confusion.
Other witnesses talked of dramatic situations in the hospitals with large numbers of dead and too many wounded to count. There were also stories of security forces opening fire on funeral processions. In Ezzouhour a father of 75 and his wife were killed in that way during the funeral of their son.


Live fire against unarmed protesters (source Nawaat)

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