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237 arrested for looting, vandalism in Tunisia

237 arrested for looting, vandalism in Tunisia

The protest happened in Tebourba, some 40 km (25 miles) from Tunis.

The grassroots movement #Fech_Nestanew (What Are We Waiting For) protested on Tuesday in Tunis against government price rises and policy, and announced a new demonstration on January 13.

The protests broke out after activists and politicians denounced increases in Value-Added Tax and the introduction of social contributions at the start of the year as a tough new budget was implemented.

Prime Minister Yousef Chahed has said the riots have descended into "acts of vandalism", he added: "What happened is violence that we can not accept".

Tunisian police on Wednesday night clashed with anti-government protesters in at least five towns including one district of the capital Tunis, witnesses said, in a fourth night of demonstrations against austerity measures.

Meanwhile, Khalifa al-Shaibani, a spokesman for the Ministry of the Interior, revealed that recent confrontations have resulted in the arrest of over 230 people involved in looting, burning, theft, damage to property and storming of security headquarters.

Tunisia is often seen as having had a relatively smooth transition since the 2011 uprising that toppled long-time dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

The protests soon turned into confrontations with security men who fired empty rounds into the air and used tear gas to disperse protesters.

Unrest is also reported in the cities of Gafsa, Kazierin and Sidi Bouzid, where the protests that marked the beginning of the Arab Spring began in 2011.

A Jewish school on the island of Djerba was also petrol bombed. More than 200 people have been arrested across the country.

There have been no figures given for the number of protesters injured in the clashes.

"The Tunisian government needs to understand that Tunisian society is fed up".

The 2018 budget includes price and tax increases effective from Jan 1.

The Popular Front has called for peaceful protests to overturn the Finance Act, according to reports from Tunisia.

The Tunisian government, a coalition of Islamist, secularist and independent factions, have accused criminal and opposition elements of being behind the protests.

The government reached an agreement late 2017 with the International Monetary Fund for a four-year loan programme, worth about $2.8bn, in return for economic reforms.

Seven years after revolution, why are Tunisians still setting themselves on fire?

Since Ben Ali's ouster, Tunisia has grappled with political instability and militant attacks that have driven away investors and tourists.

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